Chris Thomas, head of Oconee County’s beleaguered Utility Department, has resigned effective June 19.
Thomas, 42, has been with the county for 17 years and has been director of the Utility Department since 2008.
|Thomas At BOC 1/22/2015|
The resignation comes after a tumultuous 10-week period during which a citizen presented video that seemed to show a malfunction of the Calls Creek wastewater treatment plant, a consultant criticized the operation and management of the county’s two sewage facilities, and the county reported three sewage spills.
Thomas said he handed in his resignation on Monday and that he has “no idea what I’m going to do next.”
He said he would look for work outside of county and municipal water and sewer operations.
“I want something that is not political,” he said.
Thomas told me he doesn’t know who is going to replace him as director. “I’ve asked that same question myself,” he said.
Bob Sheldon, who produced the report critical of the operation of the Utility Department, could easily step in and run the department, Thomas said.
Sheldon of Dacula had worked for 20 years operating Gwinnett County’s wastewater plants, County Administrative Officer Jeff Benko told the county commissioners when he retained Sheldon to do the report.
I called and emailed Benko this afternoon and asked him if Sheldon had been retained to run the Utility Department, but he did not respond.
Thomas became the third person from the Utililty Department to resign since the problems at the two plants became public on May 26.
Gene Price, wastewater supervisor, and Anthony Occhipinti, maintenance supervisor, resigned last month.
The Utility Department got some rare good news on Monday when the Upper Oconee Watershed Network said that its monitoring of Calls Creek showed it did not have excessively high levels of the E. coli bacteria, a dangerous contaminant.
Note: Administrative officer Benko sent me an email message on the afternoon of June 11 confirming the resignation of Thomas, with the official last day of June 22. Benko said he had assigned staff to run the department, "but Department Director's decisions will be made by me until the Board appoints a new Director."