Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Oconee County Board of Commissioners Delays Action on Zoom Bait/St. Mary’s Sewer Line

New Issues Emerge

In a surprise move, the Oconee County Board of Commissioners tonight tabled discussion of the controversial Zoom Bait/St. Mary’s sewer line until its March 1 meeting.

The public was given little indication of the reason for the postponement of action other than that issues still needed to be resolved.

Following the meeting, however, Alan Theriault, administrative officer for the county, told me that the county needed to review the size of the sewer pipe for the project, the location of the proposed line, and the cost savings to the county of using gravity feed versus pump stations for its lines.

Theriault’s comments indicate that almost all of the assumptions behind the project now are being reviewed and reconsidered.

The project was first approved by the county more than 20 months ago–on May 26 of 2009–and has increased in cost from $373,422 to $773,000 since then.

It also has changed from a project designed to help two existing businesses on Jennings Mill Road, Zoom Bait and St. Mary’s Health Care System, to a project designed to foster development in the area behind Kohl’s and WalMart on Epps Bridge Parkway.

And it has changed from a project with full BOC support–the vote in May 2009 to go forward with the project was unanimous–to a project pushed by BOC Chairman Melvin Davis but challenged by the other four commissioners.

It also may be that the county will have to negotiate with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs over a $186,711 grant the county received from the state to cover part of the proposed costs for the sewer line.

Work on the sewer line is supposed to be finished by October of this year under the terms of that grant.

According to the agenda for tonight’s meeting, the BOC was supposed to decide whether to request bids for the project, since bids received from an earlier request have expired.

A similar request had been on the agenda of the Jan. 4 meeting, but the BOC delayed action pending further discussion of easements.

Theriault was the one who recommended to the commissioners tonight that they delay action on the sewer project.

Theriault reported to the body that efforts on the part of the county to negotiate with the owners of the 114-acre tract behind Kohl’s and WalMart on terms of easements for the sewer project had failed. The property is owned by the Gordy Family.

The Gordy Family had asked that 50,000 gallons per day of sewer capacity be held for it for five years and that the county pay them $1,000 in legal fees as a condition for granting an easement across their property for the sewer line.

The commissioners were unhappy with the 5-year request, since most property owners only get one year to accept sewage capacity set aside for them.

Theriault also said that County Utility Department Director Chris Thomas late on Friday of last week “received preliminary planning and engineering information dealing with lift station elimination and economic development in the Jimmy Daniel and Epps Bridge commercial corridor.”

He said that he expected by March 1 these issues would be resolved and the Board could decide what to do with the Zoom Bait/St. Mary’s/Gordy sewer project.