The proposed Zoom Bait/St. Mary’s/Gordy sewer line project, which the Oconee County Board of Commissioners refused to approve in March, is back on the agenda for tomorrow night’s session.
The official agenda, released by County Clerk Gina Lindsey on Friday afternoon, lists the sixth item as a “Presentation of Water and Sewer Strategic Plan” by County Utility Department Director Chris Thomas and Jimmy Parker, who serves as a consultant to the county.
But County Administrative Officer Alan Theriault told me in an email exchange this morning that the presentation will be followed by a discussion of the proposed sewer project.
“The completion of the Waste Water discussion and your questions will be the segue into the discussion and decision on whether or not to move forward on the Zoom Bait/St. Mary's sewer line,” Theriault wrote to commissioners on Friday in an email message he shared with me this morning.
“This thing has been kicked down the road for quite some time, and we really need a definitive resolution (go or no-go), as there is still a pending grant sitting out there,” Theriault’s email to the commissioners said. “If you decide to go...we will re-bid the construction project...if you decide no-go...we notify DCA that the grant will be forfeited and declined.”
Theriault was referring to a $186,711 grant the county received nearly two years ago from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs to cover part of the costs of the project.
The proposal is for a gravity-fed sewer line from Zoom Bait manufacturing plant and the St. Mary’s facility, both on Jennings Mill Road at McNutt Creek, to behind the Kohl’s store on Epps Bridge Parkway.
The sewer line would cross a piece of property owned by the Gordy family, but the value of the sewer line to that property was not discussed in the early deliberations about the project.
Total project cost has been estimated at approximately $800,000, or more than double the original projection.
On March 1, the BOC voted unanimously not to take any action on the proposed Zoom Bait/St. Mary’s/Gordy sewer line project. The commissioners did not rule out moving forward with the project at some point in the future, but they did not set any firm date to reconsider the sewer line.
BOC Chairman Melvin Davis, who did not vote, spoke in favor of the project.
Work on the project would have to be completed by Oct. 5 of this year under conditions of the DCA grant unless the county were given an extension.
Theriault reminded the commissioners in his message on Friday that they had requested “prior to budget discussions” earlier this year a presentation of a water and sewer strategic plan.
Central to the discussions of the sewer line was an agreement between Oconee and Clarke counties for treatment of sewage from Oconee County by Clarke County. At present, St. Mary’s sewage is being treated in Clarke County under the agreement. Zoom Bait is on a septic system.
At several times during the discussion, commissioners had asked Thomas for precise figures on how much sewage Clarke County was handling for Oconee County and on how much of the agreed-upon treatment capacity of 25,000 gallons per day remained available. Thomas said he believed the county had used up all of its capacity.
In early February, I asked the county for a copy of the agreement between Clarke and Oconee counties spelling out the terms of the sewage treatment arrangements.
Theriault told me at that time that the county was trying to determine the status of the agreement and find a copy of the contract.
On May 18, Thomas told me that the county, through a series of meetings involving County Attorney Daniel Haygood and Clarke County officials, had identified the last contract between the two counties. Thomas provided me a copy of that contract at that time.
That contract had been agreed to on May 29 of 2003.
Thomas told me on May 18 that he and those involved in the discussion believe the contract expired in May of 2008.
“Everyone proceeded as if a contract is still in place,” Haygood told me in a telephone conversation this morning. “But really there hasn’t been anything happen since 2008 that made us ask what had happened if it expired,” he added.
Haygood said both Clarke and Oconee commissioners will have to approve a new agreement, but one issue is the matter of unused capacity.
Haygood said there is ambiguity in Oconee County records regarding how much capacity the county actually has allocated to potential future users.
Thomas wrote me in an email on May 18 that “The consensus of the individuals at the meeting was that of the original 25,000 gpd available, Oconee County had only used approximately 14,690 gpd.
“Based on our interpretation of the contracts, the 10,310 gpd remaining reverted back to ACC,” he wrote. ACC refers to Athens-Clarke County.