The Oconee County Board of Commissioners, in a 3-1 vote Tuesday night, agreed to spend $13.4 million to upgrade the Calls Creek wastewater treatment plant to 1.5 million gallons per day and prepare the plant for possible future upgrade to 3.0 million gallons per day.
Oconee County Utility Department Director Wayne Haynie argued that the county would save money in the long-run if it spent a $1.1 million “premium” on the plant now so that the county would have the option of upgrading the plant to 3 million gallons per day in the future.
Commissioner Mark Thomas initially spoke about limiting the existing plant to 1.5 million gallons per day, but in the end only Horton voted against the expenditure of $13.4 million.
Construction on the plant is expected to be completed in 12 to 18 months once construction starts.
Haynie told the Board it was necessary to move forward with the plant expansion to deal with the “ticking time bomb” the county has before it because it has not expanded its sewage treatment capacity to keep up with demand.
|Horton Questioned Proposal|
He recommend that the Board award a contract for $13,383,491 to Crowder Construction Company of Conyers as a guaranteed maximum price for construction of the plant.
The Board of Commissioners had awarded Crowder a $440,000 contract last February to do the design work for what was then estimated to be a $6.7 to $7 million upgrade of the Calls Creek plant.
In the meantime, the county has changed its plans several times and, in March of last year, asked Crowder to include just less than $2 million in added components to the design.
The key part of the March design change was a second clarifier, but also added were new piping, a splitter, and other facility modifications that would be needed should the plant be expanded to 3 million gallons per day in the future.
Questions From Horton
In response to questions from Horton, Haynie acknowledged that the changes he requested of Crowder to allow for possible future expansion of the plant added $1.1 million to the $13.4 million cost of the contract.
Haynie said the new plant will require removal of trees and grading, and it would be best to grade for a larger plant at this time rather than in the future because of the possible need for blasting.
He also said the second clarifer, which is used to remove solid particulates or suspended solids from liquid, would created some desirable redundancy in the plant’s operation.
Haynie had not mentioned the need for redundancy in any of the earlier public discussions of the design, and a Crowder report on the project from Oct. 21 of last year referred to the design changes as needed for a possible upgrade to 3 million gallons per day.
Six people spoke at the meeting last night, all in opposition to the decision to move forward with the $13.4 million expenditure.
Michelle Momany, who lives along the creek, said the added features would be a temptation to future Boards to expand the plant beyond the 1.5 million gallons per day design rather than build a new plant on the Middle Oconee River, as has been proposed since at least 2005.
Momany and others in the subdivisions along the creek have organized Friends of Calls Creek, which has opposed construction of a sewer pipeline down the creek.
If the county expands the Calls Creek plant beyond 1.5 million gallons per day, it will be necessary to find a way to discharge the additional effluent in some other way than into the creek itself. The state has said the small creek cannot handle more than 1.5 million gallons per day of treated effluent.
One option discussed in the past is construction of a pipeline down Calls Creek.
Daniell Tipped Decision
Board of Commissioner Chairman John Daniell, who does not vote except in the case of a tie, spoke in favor of keeping open the option of future expansion of the existing plant, located on the north side of Watkinsville.
Daniell, who took over the Chair in January, has shown himself to be willing to take strong stands on issues and to openly encourage the four voting commissioners to follow his lead.
Daniell acknowledged that the action he was proposing was not popular with everyone.
I was one of those who asked the Board not to approve the existing plans. I believe it is a mistake to bring such a high volume of untreated sewage to the small creek because of the possibility of spills.
The county had a spill at the plant on Friday, which currently is permitted at .667 million gallons per day and receives about 400,000 gallons of flow on a normal day.
In other action on Tuesday night, the Commission named 24 people to a Stakeholder Advisory Committee to help update the county’s Comprehensive Plan. That plan spells out preferred land use in the county.
The 24 selected members include two citizens who currently serve on the county’s Land Use and Transportation Planning Committee, a member of the county’s Industrial Development Authority, and two members of the Planning Commission.
The Stakeholders Committee includes nine women.
The selected citizens are highlighted in the list available for download or viewing HERE.
The Commission also voted to name Horton as a member of the Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir Management Board, from which he had been removed by Board vote back in December.
The video below is of the entire meeting of the Commission.
The discussion of the Calls Creek sewage plant expansion begins at 19:05 in the video.