Sunday, December 04, 2011

Dispute Over Sewage Upgrades in Oconee County at Center of Pinewood Estates Mobile Home Controversy

Deadline for Cutoff Jan. 13

A sewage pump station tucked behind a shopping center on Epps Bridge Parkway is playing a key role in a controversy that threatens to cut off water and sewage services to residents of Pinewood Estates South mobile home park in Oconee County.

The pump, or lift, station, doesn’t even serve the residents of the mobile home park, though it lies between the shopping center and the park.

The lift station was built in 2003 on land that had been owned by Lindsay Greeson, who, at that time, also owned the mobile home park.

Pump Station at Issue

In what Oconee County Attorney Daniel Haygood called a “win-win for everybody,” the county was able to obtain a lift station on the land to serve the shopping center.

In exchange, the county agreed to allow the mobile home park to tie into a separate sewage line that runs along the edge of its property.

The actual details of that agreement are now at the center of a lawsuit Oconee County has filed against Georgia General Kipling Land LLC, the current owner of Pinewood Estates.

Residents of the park brought up the agreement in a public hearing attended by more than 100 people at the Oconee County Civic Center last Monday evening.

The residents expressed frustration that they are caught in a dispute between the owners of the land on which their homes sit and the county, and that, unless things change, they will be without water and sewage services on Jan. 13, 2012.

That is the date the county has said it will turn off water and sewer services to the mobile home park unless the owners of the park pay their water and sewer bill either to the county or to a third party pending settlement of the lawsuit.

County Administrative Officer Alan Theriault told me in a telephone conversation late Friday that the Georgia General Kipling Land had not yet accepted that offer.

The county has offered residents of the park one other solution to the problem.

At present, the county sells water and sewer services to Georgia General Kipling, which resells the services to the mobile home residents.

The county has said each resident can get water and sewer services directly with the county. Each resident would have to pay the county $4,790 to set up an account. In addition, the residents would have to cover the expenses of getting the water from the county meter to the home.

Theriault, who moderated the meeting on Monday night, acknowledged that residents could take advantage of the offer only if the park owners agreed.

Residents of the park, most with limited incomes, expressed little interest in the offer.

At the meeting on Monday night, residents said they have been paying their water and sewer bills to the park managers even during the period the county says the park managers have not paid the county for water and sewer services.

Theriault said the county has no choice but to stop providing water and sewer to Georgia General Kipling Land because it is illegal to provide such a service to some parties and not to others.

County Attorney Haygood told me after the Board of Commissioners meeting on Tuesday night that Greeson put in the lift station and, as is normal in such cases, turned it over to the county once it was built.

Greeson got no direct benefit from the pump station, though the county did.

The pump station allowed the county to offer sewage services to the commercial properties on Dowdy Road and Epps Bridge Parkway just east of the Markets at Epps Bridge, where Trader Joe’s is located.

What Greeson got, according to Haygood, was access to the county’s sewage treatment plant.

Greeson had been under pressure from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division to eliminate a “sump pond” right on the edge of McNutt Creek at the Epps Bridge Parkway that was part of the sewage system for the mobile home park, Haygood said.

Access to the county’s sewer system allowed Greeson to eliminate that pond.

And the county also got a benefit from elimination of the sump pond.

“Once they came off that, it improved the ecology of the creek and we were able to get a higher discharge permit at the Calls Creek plant,” Haygood said. Discharge permits are issued by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

The county’s only sewage treatment plant discharges into Calls Creek, which is a tributary to the Oconee River. McNutt Creek joins the Middle Oconee River, which joins with the North Oconee to form the Oconee River.

Greeson unsuccessfully sought to develop the property where the sump pond was located into a commercial center. That land is now owned by Georgia General Kipling Land.

Oconee County filed suit in April in the Gwinnett County Superior Court against Georgia General Kipling Land and is seeking $48,436 in unpaid sewer and water fees plus additional charges for service prior to the time of the trial, plus a 10 percent late fee, plus interest.

The county also is asking to be awarded $142,500 for unpaid sewer capacity fees.

The county contends that the mobile home mark is using more sewage capacity than the 10,000 gallons per day Greeson was awarded as part of the agreement back in 2003.

The suit states that Georgia General Kipling Land is claiming falsely that Oconee County had made a “deal” with Greeson “to provide water and sewer service free of change, in perpetuity, for the property.”

When residents of the park asked about that arrangement on Monday night, County Administrative Officer Theriault said the county was relying on its written documentation of the deal, not any reports of “verbal” agreements between the parties.

Residents of the park will have a second chance to meet with county officials at 7 p.m. on Dec. 12. That meeting also will be at the Oconee County Civic Center on Hog Mountain Road.

Residents at the first meeting on Monday filled most of the seats set out for the gathering. Theriault told me last week that 80 people signed a sheet at the entrance to the meeting, but, but he believes between 100 and 120 were in attendance.

Most of the residents sat at the rear of the room, behind an interpreter. Theriault told me the county arranged for the simultaneous translation into Spanish.

The pump station that is the center of the controversy is at the corner of Dowdy Road and Old Epps Bridge Road.

It is behind the parking lots at the rear the building housing Ashley Furniture and the building in which Big Frog t-shirt store is located and is screened from view by fencing and some trees.

Pump stations can smell, and those most likely to notice any odor are the residents of the mobile home park, located just across Dowdy Road and Old Epps Bridge Road from it.

1 comment:

Xardox said...

And these are adults?