Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Citizens Tell Oconee County Commissioners Of Their Concerns About Sewer Projects

Calls Creek Pipeline

Concerns about Oconee County’s sewer upgrade plans dominated the citizen comment section of the Board of Commissioners meeting last night.

Tony Greco, 1071 Winthrop Place, in the Hickory Hill subdivision outside Watkinsville, was the first to speak, and he informed the commissioners about the formation of Friends of Calls Creek and the meeting it held on Monday night attended by more than 70 citizens.

He said he hoped the county will pursue other alternatives to the proposed pipeline down Calls Creek, which would carry treated sewer water from an expanded sewer plant outside Watkinsville to the Middle Oconee River.

Former Commissioner Chuck Horton, who lives at 1061 Ramblewood Place in Hickory Hill, raised even broader concerns about the county’s plans, questioning why the county had not upgraded the existing Calls Creek plant after the Commission voted to do so in 2008.

And David Jackson, 1050 Campbellton Place, also in Hickory Hill, detailed the impact of the construction of the pipeline on his and other residential areas along Calls Creek and called for continued community involvement in the decision about the pipeline.

Commission Chairman Melvin Davis said that alternatives to the pipeline would be explored and that citizens would be given an opportunity to express opinions about those options.

Citizen Comments

It is common at Board of Commission meeting for no one to speak during the citizen comment section, but a total of five individuals stepped forward to speak last night.

Sarah Bell reported that she had learned that the current Fund Balance (reserve) for the county is $9,718,748, that the county has $3,741,288 in unspent funds from the 2004 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, and the county has $4,233,795 in unspent funds from the 2009 SPLOST.

Bell, 1201 Arrowhead Road near Butler’s Crossing, who is running for Commission Post 4 in the May 24 Republican primary, said she had had difficulty getting that information and wanted it reported to the public.

Incumbent Post 4 Commissioner Mark Saxon challenged Bell, saying he had given her the figures when she asked for them.

Bell said Saxon had helped her, but she wanted the data made available to the public.

Maria Caudill, 1300 S. Rossiter Terrace, outside Watkinsville, asked people to consider volunteering for the Oconee County Resource Council.

The public comment section of the BOC meeting from last night is in the video clip below.

OCO: BOC 3 29 16 Citizen Comments from Lee Becker on Vimeo

Utility Department Report

Later in the meeting, Utility Department Director Wayne Haynie updated the commissioners on the plans underway for water and sewer projects in the county, including the plans to run the sewer line down Calls Creek.

Haynie said the Calls Creek pipeline “has been discussed for many, many years” and been “on our critical projects list.”

He called the work underway “early” and “preliminary.”

He said his department is “evaluating what I would call a corridor.”

“The corridor has centered on the Calls Creek area,” he said. “We will look at other alternatives on that project. We would not want to bring a project to you that did not consider other alternatives.”

Haynie’s presentation is in the video below.

OCO: Utility Department Update from Lee Becker on Vimeo

Animal Control Board

At the end of the day on Friday, the county had received eight applications for the county’s Animal Control Advisory Board, but the county received four more before the deadline at noon on Tuesday.

Three members of the Board, which has been the center of controversy for the last year, had expiring terms, and none of them had applied for reappointment as of Friday.

Janet Calpin and Gail Wiley both applied for reappointment by the deadline on Tuesday, but, according to Oconee County Administrative Officer Jeff Benko, Wiley withdrew just before 5 p.m. on Tuesday.

Another applicant, Alanda Escoe, also withdrew before the meeting last night, leaving 10 applicants.

Seven of the individuals appeared before the Board of Commissioners last night in support of their applications. The video of their presentations is below.

OCO: Animal Control Advisory Board Applicants from Lee Becker on Vimeo

Two of Ten

Because the Board of Commissioners approved a change in the resolution establishing the Animal Control Advisory Board on March 1 to reduce the number of members from six to five, the Commission will appoint only two from the 10 for the open two-year terms.

Commissioners rarely turn down someone who asks for reappointment, and Calpin, 2290 Antioch Church Road in the south of the county, explicitly said she wanted to continue the work she had been doing on the Animal Control Advisory Board.

Wendy Jackson, 1050 Campbellton Place outside Watkinsville, and Kimberly Keegan, 1230 Scotland Bend, also outside Watkinsville, both applied last April for three openings on the Advisory Board and were passed over.

That was true even though Jackson is special events coordinator for the Oconee County Animal Shelter and Keegan is the coordinator of the highly successful foster program run by the Animal Control Department.

Secret Discussions

The Board of Commissioners makes the decisions on appointments to citizen advisory committees in executive session, so the public never knows what goes into the deliberations.

The Commission is short one member because of the resignation of Commissioner John Daniell. Commissioner Jim Luke missed last night’s meeting.

That means that BOC Chairman Melvin Davis, Commissioner William “Bubber” Wilkes and Commissioner Saxon almost certainly made the decision on the appointments to the Animal Control Board in the executive session last night.

The BOC last night in executive session also likely deliberated on the application from David Jackson, 1050 Campellton Place, for a single opening on the Family and Children Services Board, and on the application from Steve Wortham for six openings on the Keep Oconee County Beautiful Commission.

Those decisions should have been pretty easy.


Meeting of the Oconee County Board of Commissioners are recorded by the county and available on its web site.

I recorded and uploaded my recording of the meeting last night from which I took the three clips above.

That video is available on the Oconee County Observations Vimeo site.


Anonymous said...

Who can blame the citizens of Hickory Hills for having concerns. The Oconee County Utility Department has already show their failures in recent years.

Anonymous said...

Read this again:

"The county has $3,741,288 in unspent funds from the 2004 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax"
"The county has $4,233,795 in unspent funds from the 2009 SPLOST"

Why is Melvin siting on SPLOST funds? He and the other commissioners made promises to the public on how thee funds were to be spent.

For y'all running for commission offices: This needs to be a major campaign issue. For Mark Saxon, who wanted to be re-elected, you got some explaining to do!!

Xardox said...

Here's an idea...
How about not spending the money?
Just because it's there doesn't mean they have to go finding ways to dispose of it.
When another PLOST comes up for vote, and it will, remember they sit on it for important purposes like upgrading the softball fields
and locker rooms for football players.