Opponents of the proposed Calls Creek sewer line dominated the meeting of the Oconee County Board of Commissioners last night.
Residents along the creek let their negative feelings about the plans be known during the citizen comment section at the beginning of the meeting and later in the night when the commissioners considered and ultimately approved a planning contract requested by the county’s Utility Department.
Commission Chairman Melvin Davis, who normally restricts citizens to a single comment and by time, allowed several critics to speak more than once and did little to restrict the amount of time they took.
Davis also set aside protocol that dictates that commissioners not respond to citizen comments, and he and Commissioner Jim Luke challenged several of the comments made by the residents.
Statements Of Opposition
Jim McGarvey, one of the leaders of Friends of Calls Creek, presented 75 statements signed by residents in which the signer said she or he would not grant easements to the county for the sewer line.
If the property owners follow through on the pledge, the county would have to take the landowners to court in condemnation actions to be able to build the pipeline. That could increase costs of the project and result in some delay as the commissioners voted to condemn the properties.
McGarvey said the signers represent 23 of the 37 properties with a valid address on a list given him by Oconee County Utility Department Director Wayne Hayne of people whose properties would be crossed by the pipeline.
The exact path of the pipeline has not been determined, and McGarvey said the 75 signers come from both sides of the creek, which flows from the county sewer plant just outside Watkinsville off North Main Street to the Middle Oconee River.
Later in the meeting, Utility Department Director Haynie asked the Board of Commissioners to approve an expenditure of $140,500 for expansion of the county’s sewer system into the city of Bogart. Haynie said about $63,000 of that would be covered by Bogart.
The Board approved the project, which will provide services to Benson’s Bakery, the Bogart Library, and the Bogart Sports Complex, as well as to businesses in the center of the city.
Haynie next asked the Board to approve a $50,190 professional services contract with Carter and Sloope Inc., a local firm with offices between Butler’s Crossing and Watkinsville.
Carter and Sloope will help the county gather data to allow for a projection of future water and sewer needs.
When Davis asked for public comment on the second contract, several people came forward.
Cindy Mitchell McGarvey, 1170 Grace Lane, asked why the county is expanding its services to Bogart when sewer capacity at the Calls Creek plant is limited and further expansion of the plant will require construction of the pipeline down the stream.
Haynie’s answer was that the amount of new sewage was quite small and some of it was coming from the county’s own facilities, now on septic.
Barb Carroll, 1080 Holly Point Way, said that Haynie had talked about providing sewer services for a chicken processing plant and questioned the wisdom of that action.
Davis And Haynie Give Different Answers
Davis denied that there was “any information” coming to the planning staff or “us” about a chicken processing plant.
He said Haynie was merely using the chicken plant as an “example.”
That exchange between Carroll and Davis is below.
Haynie told a different story at the Oconee County Industrial Development Authority meeting of April 11, 2016.
In response to a question from IDA Chairman Rick Waller about a proposed sewer line at the Gateway Industrial Development Park, Haynie said the county “has been talking with” two possible sewer customers, including a “poultry concern” and a “microbrewing concern.”
The video clip of that exchange is below.
Davis is a member of the Industrial Development Authority and attended that meeting on April 11.
The Board of Commissioners last night also approved a rezone request by Strategic Holdings LLC to allow for a drive-through restaurant and construction office on 10 acres on Old Macon Highway in front of the Athens Ridge student housing complex.
Land planner Ken Beall, of Beall and Company, representing Strategic Holdings, told the Board that the office building would be used by Value Added Concepts LLC, which has its current offices at 8771 Old Macon Highway, Suite B, just across from Athens Ridge.
Both companies, according to Beall, are owned by Kelly Mahoney. Strategic Holdings has not identified a client for the Drive-Through restaurant, Beall said.
The citizens protesting the proposed Calls Creek sewer line did not object to the rezone, though they might have.
The sewage from the proposed buildings will be pumped to the Calls Creek plant for processing.
Former Utility Department Director Chris Thomas told Beall in May of 2015 that restaurants would require additional sewer capacity “that may not be available in the future.”
Video Of Meeting
The complete video of the Board of Commissioners meeting is below.
The complete video of the April 11 meeting of the Industrial Development Authority, recorded by Sarah Bell, is HERE.