Thursday, January 19, 2017

Sewer Plant On Middle Oconee River Center Of Focus At Oconee County Commission Work Session

Calls Creek Upgrade Too

Oconee County officials changed course yesterday (Wednesday), focusing their attention at a meeting on water and sewer issues less on the proposed upgrade to the Calls Creek wastewater treatment plant and more on the possibility of building a sewage plant on the Middle Oconee River.

Paula Feldman, lead-off speaker at the Board of Commissioners work session, set the stage, telling the Commissioners at the beginning of her talk that the recommendations in the 2005 Long Range Wastewater Strategies document “are still good and sound.”

That report recommended expansion of the Calls Creek plant but also construction of a new Middle Oconee River facility.

Utility Department Director Wayne Haynie next said that “as we embark on expansion at Calls Creek, there’s no reason why we couldn’t one day transition over to a Middle Oconee plant and have both facilities.”

Haynie said the Middle Oconee plant could start small and be expanded later as need arises.

Oconee County Commission Chairman John Daniell summarized the new thinking succinctly: “Basically, the 2005 plan is pretty much holding up. We need to be somewhere on the Middle Oconee.”

The major obstacle is cost, with Haynie telling the Board that even the expansion of the Calls Creek plant to 1.5 million gallons per day, which he estimated a year ago to cost $7 million, now is expected to be $13.5 million.

Work Session Three

Wednesday’s was the third work session the Board of Commissioners has held this month, and the longest.

Commissioners Chuck Horton, Left, John Daniell

The first session on Jan. 6 ran a little over two hours.

The second on Jan. 10 lasted just an hour.

Wednesday’s session featured the presentation by Feldman, a partner at Engineered Horizons of Duluth, Jimmy Parker of Precision Planning of Monroe, and Robert Ori of Public Resources Management Group of Maitland, Fla. All are consultants to the county.

Haynie moderated and added comments as the presentations progressed.

Wide Range Of Topics

The discussion covered a wide range of topics, from data on use and projected use of the county’s water and sewer services, plans for not one but two new water towers, the county’s sewer collection system, and the rate structure for services provided to customers.

A simple message that ran through the meeting was that the county has adequate sources for the water it will need in the future.

The county is exploring purchasing additional water from the Bear Creek Reservoir in Jackson County, a partnership involving Oconee, Barrow, Jackson and Clarke counties.

Another option is working with the three counties to expand treatment plant capacity.

The county also is a partner with Walton County on the Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir, but Feldman noted that pumping the water from the reservoir now filling in the far southern end of Walton County to Oconee County will be an expensive enterprise.

Sewer Is The Problem

Things are quite different on the sewer side.

“We are in urgent need of additional capacity,” Feldman said, and upgrading Calls Creek to 1.5 million gallons per day quickly is essential.

She also laid out three options to get to the 5 million gallons per day of treatment capacity she said the county will need by 2050, and all involved a plant on the Middle Oconee River.

Option 1 involves abandoning the Land Application Site on Rocky Branch Road, keeping the Calls Creek plant at 1.5 mgd, and building a plant on the Middle Oconee with 3.5 mgd of capacity.

Option 2 involves abandoning the LAS site but building a 1 mgd sewage plant on that land with discharge to Barber Creek, keeping the Calls Creek plant at 1.5 mgd, and building a 2.5 mgd plant on the Middle Oconee River.

Option 3 would have a single plant of 5 mgd on the Middle Oconee River.

Expand Calls Creek

Haynie said the county could expand the Calls Creek plant to as high as 6 million gallons per day, but it would have to find a way to discharge effluent higher than 1.5 mgd in some fashion.

The proposed pipeline down Calls Creek to accomplish that has produced strong pushback from residents along the stream.

Parker told Haynie there is another problem with plant expansion.

The feeder system going into the plant can only handle 2 million gallons per day of flow, he said, so that system, including the force main at Epps Bridge Parkway, the line down Daniells Bridge Road, and the collector at Lampkin Branch, all would have to be upgraded.

Upgrades currently planned will not get the system beyond its 2 million gallons per day limitation, he said.

Collector System

Parker in his discussion focused on the sewer collector system, presenting a map with a variety of options.

Jimmy Parker Of Precision Planning Inc.

The county is in the process of building a collector system to run from Epps Bridge Parkway to Bogart, where sewer lines inside the city are in the works.

That will bring additional sewage to Epps Bridge Parkway, where it currently is being pumped to the Calls Creek plant.

The county will need to build a sewer line from Epps Bridge Parkway along McNutt Creek and the Middle Oconee River to a proposed sewer plant site on the Middle Oconee River near Simonton Bridge Road.

Parker estimated the cost of that line at $14.9 million.

The county has not purchased any property along the river, and Parker proposed another site further downstream and closer to Barnett Shoals Road as an option.

To get to that site, the county would have to spend an additional $8.7 million on a sewer line.


The Commission broke its session into three parts, with the session after lunch focused on a financial analysis of the operation of the Utility Department.

Ori of Public Resources Management Group said the base rate structure for water in the county is sound, but he recommended simplifying the steps above the base water rate, with the likely consequence being increased costs to users.

Ori also said that water users at present are subsidizing sewer users, and he recommended increases in the sewer rates to address that problem.

The county owes $9 million on a bond issued in 1998, $5.8 million for bonds issues by the Upper Oconee Water Basin Authority for the Bear Creek Reservoir, and $27 million in bonds and loans for the Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir.

Ori recommended the county pay off the $9 million as soon as possible to better prepare itself to issue future debt.


The video below is broken into three parts.

The first part, ending at 1:11, includes the comments of Feldman and an overview of the proposed design of the Calls Creek plant by Haynie.

The second part, ending at 2:08, contains the comments of Parker and questions from the BOC members.

The third part includes the comments by Ori.

The meeting ran from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., but a bathroom break and the luncheon break have been eliminated from the video.

OCO: BOC Work 1 18 17 Complete from Lee Becker on Vimeo.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Proposal For A Christian Ministry Campus Off Barnett Shoals Road On Agenda Of Oconee County Planning Commission

Water And Sewer Needed

The Oconee County Planning Commission tomorrow (Tuesday) night will consider a request to convert a portion of the former Green Hills Golf Course and Country Club in the far east of the county to a ministry college.

Green Hills Farms LLC, the current land owner, is seeking a special use to allow the Athens College of Ministry to develop a campus on just more than 100.2 acres on the agriculturally-zoned land.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Feasibility Study For Oconee County Animal Shelter Should Be Ready For Discussion Shortly, Commissioners Told

Before Advisory Board Feb. 8

Oconee County Administrative Officer Jeff Benko is expecting to distribute a consultant’s report on the feasibility of renovating the animal shelter to the Board of Commissioners this week.

Benko made that statement to the Board at its work session at the Community Center in Veterans Park on Tuesday.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Oconee County Industrial Development Authority Now Focusing On Western Tract In Gateway Business Park

Lacks Sewers

The Oconee County Industrial Development Authority, following its agreement last month to sell the undeveloped acreage in the eastern parcel of its Gateway Technology Business Park, is trying to determine the value of its western parcel in anticipation of interest in the acreage.

The group also wants to come up with firm figures for how much it will have to spend to extend sewer services to the western property.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Citizens At Oconee County Town Hall Meeting Told Decision On Calls Creek Sewer Pipeline Coming Soon

Solar Power Also Discussed

Oconee County is likely to make a decision on expansion of its Calls Creek sewage treatment plant and on whether to run a pipeline down Calls Creek for treated effluent early next month.

The commissioners who opposed the solar energy farm proposed for Dials Mill Road in the northwest of the county were concerned about the project’s impact on surrounding residential neighborhoods and were not opposed to alternative energy sources.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Former Oconee County Chairman Had Impact On Discussion At Work Session Of New Board

Meeting On Friday

Melvin Davis wasn’t at the work session of the Oconee County Board of Commissioners on Friday, but he had impact on the discussion nonetheless.

The meeting began with a review of the ethics ordinance for commissioners, which has been used only once–in a complaint filed against Davis.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Healthcare And Education Will Dominate Discussions In General Assembly, Oconee Sen. Bill Cowsert Told Local Officials

Assembly Opens Monday

Bill Cowsert, who represents Oconee County in the Georgia Senate, told a group of local officials last month that he expects healthcare and education to dominate much of the work of the session of the General Assembly that starts on Monday.

Cowsert, who is Republican Majority leader, was speaking even before the U.S. Senate began its efforts this week to unravel the Affordable Care Act.