Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Proposed Calls Creek Sewer Line Dominates Oconee County Board Of Commissioners Meeting

Objections Submitted

Opponents of the proposed Calls Creek sewer line dominated the meeting of the Oconee County Board of Commissioners last night.

Residents along the creek let their negative feelings about the plans be known during the citizen comment section at the beginning of the meeting and later in the night when the commissioners considered and ultimately approved a planning contract requested by the county’s Utility Department.

Commission Chairman Melvin Davis, who normally restricts citizens to a single comment and by time, allowed several critics to speak more than once and did little to restrict the amount of time they took.

Davis also set aside protocol that dictates that commissioners not respond to citizen comments, and he and Commissioner Jim Luke challenged several of the comments made by the residents.

Statements Of Opposition

Jim McGarvey, one of the leaders of Friends of Calls Creek, presented 75 statements signed by residents in which the signer said she or he would not grant easements to the county for the sewer line.

If the property owners follow through on the pledge, the county would have to take the landowners to court in condemnation actions to be able to build the pipeline. That could increase costs of the project and result in some delay as the commissioners voted to condemn the properties.

McGarvey said the signers represent 23 of the 37 properties with a valid address on a list given him by Oconee County Utility Department Director Wayne Hayne of people whose properties would be crossed by the pipeline.

The exact path of the pipeline has not been determined, and McGarvey said the 75 signers come from both sides of the creek, which flows from the county sewer plant just outside Watkinsville off North Main Street to the Middle Oconee River.

Future Growth

Later in the meeting, Utility Department Director Haynie asked the Board of Commissioners to approve an expenditure of $140,500 for expansion of the county’s sewer system into the city of Bogart. Haynie said about $63,000 of that would be covered by Bogart.

The Board approved the project, which will provide services to Benson’s Bakery, the Bogart Library, and the Bogart Sports Complex, as well as to businesses in the center of the city.

Haynie next asked the Board to approve a $50,190 professional services contract with Carter and Sloope Inc., a local firm with offices between Butler’s Crossing and Watkinsville.

Carter and Sloope will help the county gather data to allow for a projection of future water and sewer needs.

Comments Allowed

When Davis asked for public comment on the second contract, several people came forward.

Cindy Mitchell McGarvey, 1170 Grace Lane, asked why the county is expanding its services to Bogart when sewer capacity at the Calls Creek plant is limited and further expansion of the plant will require construction of the pipeline down the stream.

Haynie’s answer was that the amount of new sewage was quite small and some of it was coming from the county’s own facilities, now on septic.

Barb Carroll, 1080 Holly Point Way, said that Haynie had talked about providing sewer services for a chicken processing plant and questioned the wisdom of that action.

Davis And Haynie Give Different Answers

Davis denied that there was “any information” coming to the planning staff or “us” about a chicken processing plant.

He said Haynie was merely using the chicken plant as an “example.”

That exchange between Carroll and Davis is below.

OCO: Carroll And Davis On Poultry from Lee Becker on Vimeo

Haynie told a different story at the Oconee County Industrial Development Authority meeting of April 11, 2016.

In response to a question from IDA Chairman Rick Waller about a proposed sewer line at the Gateway Industrial Development Park, Haynie said the county “has been talking with” two possible sewer customers, including a “poultry concern” and a “microbrewing concern.”

The video clip of that exchange is below.

OCO: Haynie On Poultry Concern from Lee Becker on Vimeo

Davis is a member of the Industrial Development Authority and attended that meeting on April 11.

Rezone Approved

The Board of Commissioners last night also approved a rezone request by Strategic Holdings LLC to allow for a drive-through restaurant and construction office on 10 acres on Old Macon Highway in front of the Athens Ridge student housing complex.

Land planner Ken Beall, of Beall and Company, representing Strategic Holdings, told the Board that the office building would be used by Value Added Concepts LLC, which has its current offices at 8771 Old Macon Highway, Suite B, just across from Athens Ridge.

Both companies, according to Beall, are owned by Kelly Mahoney. Strategic Holdings has not identified a client for the Drive-Through restaurant, Beall said.

The citizens protesting the proposed Calls Creek sewer line did not object to the rezone, though they might have.

The sewage from the proposed buildings will be pumped to the Calls Creek plant for processing.

Former Utility Department Director Chris Thomas told Beall in May of 2015 that restaurants would require additional sewer capacity “that may not be available in the future.”

Video Of Meeting

The complete video of the Board of Commissioners meeting is below.

OCO: BOC 5 3 16 Complete from Lee Becker on Vimeo

The complete video of the April 11 meeting of the Industrial Development Authority, recorded by Sarah Bell, is HERE.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

State Expects To Begin Right Of Way Acquisition In 2018 For U.S. 441 Widening In Oconee County

Schedule Announced

The Georgia Department of Transportation expects to begin purchasing right of way for the widening of U.S. 441 from the Watkinsville bypass to the Madison bypass in the summer of 2018, representatives of the state agency told a gathering of about 50 citizens last Thursday night.

GDOT plans to let the project for construction in the spring of 2021, the state highway officials told the group, which included the eight members of a Sounding Board appointed by the Oconee County Board of Commissioners to provide citizen involvement in the project.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Residents Along Calls Creek To Tell Oconee County Commissioners They Will Not Grant Easements For Proposed Sewer Line

Goal Is To Force Condemnation

Representatives of Friends of Calls Creek plan to submit statements to the Oconee County Board of Commissioners tomorrow night signed by 73 residents along the creek who say they will not grant an easement to the county for the proposed pipeline.

If the residents follow up on their pledges, the county would be forced to take condemnation action against the land owners to go forward with its plans, potentially running up the cost of the project.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Continuity Vs. Change Theme Of Second Oconee County Board Of Commissioners Candidate Forum

Other Candidates Sharpened Focus

Mark Thomas and Mark Saxon are happy with the way things are going in Oconee County and are running for election to the Oconee County Board of Commissioners as proponents of continuity.

Penny Mills and Sarah Bell are concerned about rapid growth in the county and about transparency and openness in government. They want to do things differently in the future.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Oconee County Still Waiting On Details Of Route For Proposed Calls Creek Sewer Line

Three Meetings Upcoming

Oconee County is still waiting on a report from the firm it hired to do survey work for the route of the proposed sewer line down Calls Creek, county Utility Department Director Wayne Haynie said today.

Haynie told Jim McGarvey from Friends of Calls Creek that no additional information on the route of the proposed sewer line likely will be available before the meeting the group has called for 7 p.m. on Thursday at the Library in Watkinsville.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

First Oconee County Forum Separated Supporters From Critics Among Board of Commissions Candidates

Who Is Incumbent?

In the Candidate Forum on April 14, Oconee County Board of Commission candidates Sarah Bell and Penny Mills took the position of outsiders and critics.

In their opening comments, Bell said the county does not have a “Commission that listens well,” and Mills said the Commission “needs to be more proactive about transparency.”

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Oconee County Utility Department Budget Does Not Include Water And Sewer Rate Increases–For Now

Rate Study Underway

Oconee County water and sewer customers likely will get a reprieve, at least temporarily, from the annual water and sewer rate increases of recent years.

Oconee County Utility Department Director Wayne Haynie told the Board of Commissioners at a budget hearing last week that he is not asking for a rate increase as part of his budget request.