James Gaither, 1040 Cumberland Road, north of Watkinsville, asked the final question at the Town Hall Meeting held by the Oconee County Board of Commissioners on Thursday night.
“If you guys could have one thing off your plate right now, or tomorrow morning, what would you choose--to be done with it, don’t have to worry about it for another 10 years?” Gaither asked.
Commissioner Chuck Horton responded next: “I could agree with that.”
“It’s definitely at the top of the list,” Commissioner Mark Saxon added.
Sewers had come up earlier in the evening, as had a number of other issues, but the responses to Gaither’s final question made it clear how important a solution to the county’s sewer problems is for the three commissioners who attended the Town Hall Meeting.
Only 23 citizens showed up for the session, held at the Civic Center on Hog Mountain Road west of Butler’s Crossing.
Commissioner William “Bubber” Wilkes sent word that he would not be able to attend because of a conflict with his job, but Chairman Daniell said he expected Commissioner Mark Thomas to join the meeting in progress.
The session lasted just more than 50 minutes, and Thomas had not appeared during that time period.
None of the commissioners made any opening comments.
“This is kind of your meeting, your opportunity to ask questions,” Daniell said.
Topics Raised By Citizens
Thirteen of those who turned out came forward to pose questions or make comments. Many raised more than one issue.
Dan Magee, 2210 Loch Lomond Circle, just outside Watkinsville, said he was glad that the commissioners had included rails-to-trails on their list of 22 priorities for the county for 2017.
He also said he was interested in the revision of the Comprehensive Plan now underway.
Diane Windham, 1050 Coventry Road, south of Watkinsville, said she, too, supported the rails-to-trails initiative and also said she would appreciate support of efforts of the Upper Oconee Watershed Network to create a water trail on the Oconee River.
Other issues raised were the Bishop bypass, the need for action regarding the Animal Shelter, the impaired status of Barber, Calls and McNutt creeks in the county, and space needs at the Courthouse.
David Wenner, 2941 Flat Rock Road, outside Watkinsville, asked the three commissioners where “you envision going with, dealing with some of the sewage problems, say in the next 10 years, 15 years?”
Daniell said the immediate need is for the upgrade to the Calls Creek wastewater treatment plant, which is underway.
“That will give us a lot of relief,” he said.
The next step is a “true master plan” for water and sewer in the county.
He said the county will be looking at the Middle Oconee as a possible site for a new plant, but it also will consider further expansion at Calls Creek.
Gaither’s final question indicated that solving the county’s sewer problem is a top priority for the Commission, but Horton and Saxon made it clear it was not the only issue they are concerned about.
Horton said finding space at the Courthouse and improvements to the Animal Shelter are very high priorities as well.
“We’ve been very aggressive on meeting the goals” we identified, Daniell said.
But he quickly turned back to sewers.
“The refund of sewer capacity was a huge step,” he said, noting it was done by a unanimous vote of the Board.
The decision is being challenged in three separate lawsuits, and Daniell acknowledged “We don’t know how that is going to turn out.
“We’re trying to do the right thing for the entire county,” he said.
The video of the complete Town Hall Meeting is below.
Daniell is seated at the right in the video, with Saxon in the middle and Horton to the left.