THOMASVILLE -- A unanimous yea vote by Thomas County commissioners will result in an agreement with Thomasville city government to work toward an Urban Service District (USD).

Because Thomasville is out of room for development, the only place to go is into unincorporated Thomas County, but careful planning is mandatory, county and city officials agreed.

The vote opens communications between the two governing bodies for a plan that fast-forwards a couple of decades.

Steve Sykes, assistant city manager/utilities, reminded commissioners that Thomasville Utilities offers not only electricity, but sewer, water, cable television and garbage pickup.

As Thomas County grows, so will Thomasville Utilities, Sykes said, adding that the city is looking at a 20-year growth plan.

Local governments and utilities need to plan where growth should be, Sykes told commissioners.

A lot of time will go into planning a USD, he said.

"One of the things we'd like to see is no septic tanks," Sykes said.

Thomasville Utilities serves some unincorporated areas near the city. Within a one- to two-mile radius of Thomasville, the proposed USD, 80 percent of electricity is supplied by Thomasville Utilities. Grady County Electric Membership Corp. also has customers in the area.

Commission Chairman Josh Herring told Sykes he realized city government is looking at the USD from a revenue standpoint.

It would not be economically feasible for the city to provide six residences with services, but with properly planned growth, provision of the services to a wide base would a wise financial move, Herring explained.

Sykes said city government does not want to expand electricity, water and sewer services without assurance of growth in a specific area.

Herring said the USD should not be confused with annexation into the city.

Commissioner Elaine Mays said a USD will be important in the city-county comprehensive plan. The state-mandated plan is not due for several years, but Thomas County and Thomasville government officials already are working together on establishing a plan.

Mays said, for instance, large tracts of land will be developed for residential use. The development must be considered in the comprehensive plan.

Sykes said he thought commissioners would agree no large tracts suitable for development remain in the city. It is difficult to install a sewer system in an established subdivision, he added, in reference to unincorporated areas.

In answer to a question by the Commissioner Mary Jo Beverly, Sykes said the city sewage treatment plant is capable of handling an appreciable increase in volume.

Sykes will develop a USD plan.

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