Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Oconee County Board of Commissioners Gives Nod to $1.9 Million Sewer Projects


The Oconee County Board of Commissioners gave tentative approval last night to two new sewer projects that include an upgrade to the county’s only existing sewage plant and replacement of the main arterial line that feeds the plant.

The $1.9 million project will be funded in part through a loan from the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority (GEFA), the state agency that administers programs that provide financial assistance and other support services to improve Georgia’s environment.

The money actually comes from the federal government through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which provides funds for water quality protection projects around the country.

The county applied for and was awarded a $1.8 million loan for the project. GEFA already has indicated it will forgive $270,000 of the loan, which is not due until completion of the project or September of 2011.

The county either will pay off the 10-year loan when it comes due with monies already available, County Finance Director Jeff Benko told the commissioners last night, or it will pay off the $1.53 million over time at 3 percent interest, depending on which is more favorable to the county.

Benko said the county has collected fees from developers wishing to reserve capacity for sewage treatement that will allow the county to pay for the project and that money is invested and earning interest.

Benko told me after the meeting that the county also will seek additional loan money from GEFA, since the $1,939,057 total cost of the project is greater than the initial estimated budget of $1.8 million.

The commissioners last night gave initial approval to a bid of $1,233,809 from Southern Champion Construction Inc. of Stone Mountain for the upgrade to the head works of the Calls Creek sewage plant and immediately included a change order that would reduce that project’s total price by $84,500.

The commissioners also gave preliminary approval to a bid of $789,778 to Gary’s Grading and Pipeline Company of Monroe for a replacement of the main sewage line feeding that plant.

Approval of both bids will be on the consent agenda at the Dec. 7 meeting, meaning they will be approved without further discussion unless a commissioner asks that the items be removed from the agenda for further consideration.

Jimmy Parker from Precision Planning Inc. of Lawrenceville, acting as a consultant to the county, told the commissioners last night that the county’s application with GEFA was rated tops in the state, receiving a score of 93 out of 100 possible points, because of project needs and environmental impact and because of the compliance record of the county’s utility department.

“A lot of things your utility department has been doing spoke well in that application,” Parker said.

The Calls Creek sewage plant upgrade includes a new receiving well below the plant into which the sewage flows before it is pumped uphill to the treatment plant itself as well as screens to filter out heavy materials before they enter the plant.

That well will have a 5 million gallon per day capacity, although the plant itself is only permitted to operate at 0.67 MGD at present.

The county will use an existing emergency backup pump rather than buy a new one, as originally proposed, saving the $84,500 covered by the change order.

The upgrade also will include a septage receiving station that will preprocess the contents of septic tanks that haulers bring to the plant.

At present, the county does not have such a facility, though one had been incorporated into the plans for the proposed Rocky Branch sewage plant. Those plans are now on hold due to the drop in demand in the weak economy.

Chris Thomas, Utility Department director, said last night the inclusion of the septage receiving station at Calls Creek could make such a facility at Rocky Branch unnecessary.

The sewer line to be upgraded currently handles all of the effluent going into the Calls Creek plant and follows Calls Creek from near the county jail on Experiment Station road in Watkinsville to the plant itself.

The county will replace a 10-inch line with a 24-inch line and remove four aerial crossings of Calls Creek and Lampkin Branch, which feeds into Calls Creek. The new line will be entirely underground, flow by gravity and run a total of 5,500 feet.

The county also has received a grant of $187,000 from the state for an unrelated sewage project that would serve Zoom Bait and St. Mary’s Hospital Highland Hills on Jennings Mill road. That project is currently on hold while the county negotiates over easements.

Funding for that grant also comes from the federal government.