Our View: In business and in government, write it down

August 23, 2018 11:03:35 AM



Over the past year, and especially in recent weeks, the bitter dispute between Lowndes County and city of Columbus officials has driven home one point that everyone should now be able to agree on. 


When in doubt, write it down. 


In fact, even when there is no doubt at all, write it down. 


Disputes between the city and county over the division of assets after the break-up of the Columbus Lowndes Recreation Authority, funding of the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library and funding for the Golden Triangle Development LINK have only been exacerbated by a failure to thoroughly document those agreements. 


In the case of the agreement between the city and county to fund the library system, the documentation was unnecessarily vague -- the agreement said the two governments might or might not provide funding from year to year and nowhere in that document was their a dollar amount of the funding or an explicit statement about the funding partnership between the city and county. Was it a 50/50 partnership? County officials insist it was. Yet it was nowhere mentioned in the agreement. 


As for the LINK funding agreements, while the county's funding responsibility is documented, the city's $100,000 annual commitment is nowhere to be found in any agreement. Why not? Oktibbeha and Clay put agreements with their municipalities in writing. 


As far as the CLRA dispute, which is still stirring rancor more than a year after the split was announced, we can celebrate the fact that there is at least a written plan to divide assets between the city and county. The problem with that document is that certain aspects of the dissolution plan are vague, which has paved the way to continued bickering. 


This is especially hard to fathom. 


Even in cordial relationships, committing agreements to paper is a good idea. After all, memories fade and new people move into positions of authority. Having agreements documented helps avoid confusion, division and, often, waste. 


It's good business and common sense. 


The disputes between the city and county may not have been prevented if the parties had taken the time and trouble to document their agreements. But there is no doubt that doing so would have at least established the basic facts behind these disputes which are now essentially a matter of "he said, he said." 


No business operates that way. 


Nor should the business of city and county government.