Sunday, December 16, 2007

Written 12/16/2007

Rocky Branch on BOC Agenda Again

The upgrade to the Rocky Branch sewage treatment plant, which will result in the discharge of up to 1 million gallons per day of treated wastewater into Barber Creek, is back on the agenda of the Board of Commissioners for its meeting on Tuesday, December 18.

The BOC will be updated by Precision Planning’s Jimmy Parker and Oconee Utility Department Director John Hatcher on "Wastewater Planning and RFP Update."

The deadline for submission of proposals for the upgrade of the Rocky Branch plant is 5 p.m. the day before the BOC meeting.

In addition, the BOC will hear from Parker and Hatcher about "water resources" at the Tuesday meeting.

I’ll also ask for the third time that the Board pass a resolution drafted by the Georgia Water Coalition. The resolution asks the Georgia General Assembly to fund water resource study and monitoring and to oppose interbasin transfers of water. The Board has refused to take any action on the resolution despite two earlier requests by me that it do so.

After promising to follow a different course of action, the County essentially reissued the Request for Proposal it had issued in June for engineering and design work on the Rocky Branch sewage plant. That request had produced three bids, and the Utility Department wanted to give the project to Jordan Jones and Goulding.

JJ&G was not the low bidder and had been involved in initial planning work for the plant. Precision Planning, which had partnered with JJ&G on County projects, also participated in the review that led to selection of the JJ&G bid.

JJ&G, on a tip from the County, proposed that the County abandon its commitment to membrane filtration for the plant and use a more primitive treatment method. That method cannot meet the standards that membrane filtration is capable of meeting.

The BOC refused to go along with the recommendation of the Utility Department after I pointed out the nature of the bidding and review. You can read details of that meeting in my posting of 9/10/2007.

Alan Theriault, administrative officer for the County, sent me an e-mail message on September 7, three days after the Board of Commissioners (BOC) voted to upgrade the Rocky Branch plant, saying he expected the initial step in the rebidding process to be a "Request for Qualifications" advertisement "to identify design firms or teams that have specific experience with membrane filtration wastewater systems and that would be interested in this project."

Although I have asked Theriault twice since that September message to keep me updated on discussions about Rocky Branch, he did not inform me about the new bidding for the plant upgrade.

Advertisements for the project appeared in The Oconee Enterprise on November 21 and 29 and again on December 6 and 13. The advertisements are nearly identical to those used for the earlier bid.

As with the earlier bid, interested parties were required to participate in a pre-submittal conference. That conference, according to the advertisements, was held on December 4, making the last two advertisements in the Enterprise meaningless, at least in terms of soliciting proposals.

My efforts to get the BOC to pass the Georgia Water Coalition resolution have produced nothing. The issue is the interbasin transfer prohibition, Chairman Melvin Davis has confirmed.

The County has a permit for an interbasin transfer for the Hard Labor Creek reservoir project. Water will be pumped out of the Oconee River basin and discharged, at least partially, into the Ocmulgee River basin. In addition, Oconee County sold water to Walton County for many years, and that water came out of the Oconee River basin. Walton County straddles the Oconee and Ocmulgee basins.

If the County would discuss the Water Coalition resolution, its stand on future interbasin transfers might become known. Even if the County does not pass that part of the resolution dealing with interbasin transfers, it could pass the other part, dealing with funding for the study of water issues.

My blog posting of 11/23/2007 explains the resolution.

By the way, if you missed the lead story in today’s Athens Banner-Herald about a broken promise to citizens in Clarke and Olgethorpe Counties about a landfill, you might want to take a look. It tells how important it is for citizens to watch what government officials do, and how hard it is to control those actions.

If you can attend the meeting tomorrow night, please do so. It always helps to have a crowd.