Saturday, February 17, 2018

Friends Of Barber Creek Seeking To Play Leadership Role In Discussion Of Oconee County Water Master Plan

***Board Elects New President***

Members of the Board of Directors of the Friends of Barber Creek have decided they want to play a leadership role as Oconee County completes work on its Water and Wastewater Master Plan revision.

The Board earlier this week elected Allan Antley, 1040 Lake Wellbrook Drive in Lake Wellbrook subdivision, as president, and decided to make new efforts to revive its membership base.

A preliminary map released by the county as part of development of its master plan shows a gravity fed sewer line all the way down Barber Creek from just east of U.S. 78 until the creek’s terminus at McNutt Creek on the Clarke and Oconee county line.

At present, the county has pump stations at two places on Barber Creek but no sewer lines along the creek itself, which runs across the entire northern watershed of the county and through many subdivisions.

The Board of Directors of Friends of Barber Creek decided to work with other local groups interested in water resources in the county, including Oconee Waters and Friends of Calls Creek, as the Board of Commissioners considers adoptions of a new Water and Wastewater Master Plan.

Friends of Barber Creek

I helped organize the Friends of Calls Creek in 2006 when the county proposed putting a wastewater treatment plant on Barber Creek at Rocky Branch Road as a replacement for or addition to the Land Application Site at that location.

Antley At Barber Creek

I served as the group president from its incorporation with the Georgia Secretary of State as a domestic nonprofit corporation on Jan. 23, 2006, until Antley’s election in a meeting at my house on Monday night.

I live at 1050 Scott Terrace, in Welbrook Farms subdivision, on Barber Creek.

Karen Kimbaris, 1031 Willow Ridge, in Lake Wellbrook, is Board secretary.

Eleanor Patat Cotton, 1101 Nona Drive, also in Welbrook Farms, is the registered agent for the Friends of Barber Creek and a Board member.

One Board slot is vacant because the member moved out of the county.

Antley, Kimbaris and I attended the meeting on Monday. Cotton sent a proxi.

Blog And Friends

The initial listserv I used when I began Oconee County Observations on Sept. 1, 2006, was the listserv I had created for the Friends of Barber Creek.

The majority of stories I posted on the blog in 2006 and 2007 dealt with water and sewer issues and with Barber Creek.

I decided to step down as president of Friends of Barber Creek at this time to create distance between the work of Friends of Barber Creek and the blog and to give me time to continue to post to the blog.

I will remain on the Board of Directors of Friends of Barber Creek as past president and will acknowledge that association in stories I post on Oconee County Observations about Friends of Barber Creek.

Water and Wastewater Master Plan

At a meeting held at the Civic Center on Jan. 16, Water Resources Department Head Wayne Haynie said he wanted to get citizen feedback on three questions, one of which was a whether the county should expand wastewater service by extension of gravity fed sewer lines along major creeks in the north of the county.

Haynie made it clear that is what he was recommending, and most of the comments at that meeting from citizens were on that topic, largely in opposition to the plan.

Haynie also asked for feedback on how wastewater treatment capacity should be allocated, including whether more allocation should go to residential sewer, and on support for reuse of wastewater.

Citizens at the meeting said almost nothing about those two topics.

Map Of Gravity Lines

Sometime last fall, the county hung on the wall outside the Water Resources Department (formerly Utility Department) office in the Government Annex on the south side of Watkinsville a map that showed gravity lines down Barber Creek.

I had included the map in a post on Dec. 30 regarding the agenda for the Jan. 2 Board of Commissioners meeting, which contained a report by Water Resources Department Director Haynie on the Water and Wastewater Master Plan under development.

The map became the centerpiece of discussion at a meeting organized by Friends of Calls Creek and held at the Oconee County Library on Jan. 24. Jim McGarvey, president of Friends of Calls Creek, had the map blown up and on an easel at the front of the room as the meeting started.

Many of those present at that meeting live along Barber Creek, and they expressed opposition to the proposed gravity line down the creek because of the damage it would do to their property and neighborhoods during construction and subsequently.

Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chairman John Daniell said at that meeting that the map was preliminary and should not have been on display at the Annex.

The map has been removed from the wall outside the Water Resources Department Office.

McNutt Creek Line

The map, which can be downloaded from the Oconee County Observations site on Box.net, is labeled as 10-Year Wastewater System Strategic Plan FY 2018-2018.

The map shows two major gravity sewer lines serving the northern, most developed part of the county.

The first is along McNutt Creek, which forms the border between Oconee and Clarke counties.

The McNutt Creek line would bring sewage from Bogart to the Middle Oconee River, where a sewage plant is proposed to be located.

Some of that line between Bogart and Epps Bridge Parkway already exists, and parts are now under construction.

From Epps Bridge Parkway at Parkway Boulevard, the county now pumps sewage from its commercial sector on Epps Bridge Parkway to its only sewage treatment plant, located on Calls Creek on the north side of Watkinsville.

Barber Creek Line

The second gravity line on the map that was on the wall at the Annex runs along Barber Creek from just on the western side of U.S.78 to McNutt Creek, where it connects to the McNutt Creek line and sends sewage to the proposed Middle Oconee River treatment plant.

The map does not show any sewer line down Calls Creek.

In early 2016, the county sent surveyors onto property along the Calls Creek as a forerunner to designing a gravity line down Calls Creek. Opposition from homeowners along the creek and formation of Friends of Calls Creek followed.

The map that was hanging on the wall at the Annex proposed a gravity line down Simonton Bridge Road as an alternative to the Calls Creek gravity line.

Barber Creek

Barber Creek is a 26-mile-long creek flowing mostly through Oconee County.

The stream begins in Barrow County near Statham.

At present, only one wastewater treatment plant, near Statham, is on the creek.

An Oconee County wastewater system map labeled for 2011 and which was given to me by then Utility Department Director Chris Thomas in 2013 shows no sewer lines currently exist on Barber Creek.

A pump station on Barber Creek at Daniells Bridge Road is part of the forced-main line running from Epps Bridge Parkway to the Calls Creek plant.

Another pump station on the creek behind Barber Creek Business Park on Mars Hill Road is used to pump sewage along Mars Hill Road and then Rocky Branch Road to the Land Application Site near North Oconee High School.

That map, labeled Wastewater System 2011, also can be downloaded from the Oconee County Observations site on Box.net.

Neighborhoods

Barber Creek flows through many subdivisions in Oconee County on its way from the Barrow County border to the Clarke County border just east of the U.S. 441 intersection with SR Loop 10.

Included are Crystal Hills, Chestnut Glen, Lake Wellbrook, Welbrook Farms, Birchmore Hills, Founders Grove, Laurel Shoals, and Rowan Oak, all in the more densely developed residential part of the county.

The county allowed many of the homes in these subdivisions to be built close to the creek, making no provision for the future construction of sewer lines down them.

In fact, the plats approved by the county for several of these subdivisions included Barber Creek as part of the subdivision’s amenity areas. Lake Wellbrook is one prime example, and Laurel Shoals is another.

2005 Plan

The last long-range plan for wastewater in the county was produced by Jordan Jones and Goulding, for which current Water Resources Department Director Haynie worked. (Haynie will leave the county for another job on March 5.)

The plan showed a long-range plan for wastewater collection that included a gravity line along McNutt Creek from Bogart to a new treatment plant on the Middle Oconee River.

It also showed gravity lines along Barber Creek and many of its tributaries all the way from the Barrow County line to the Clarke County line.

That map included a gravity line down Calls Creek.

The Board of Commissioners never adopted the plan.

Commission Chair Daniell, at the meeting on Jan. 24, stated that the Board of Commissioners would adopt a new Water and Wastewater Master Plan only after receiving additional citizen input.

He did not provide any timetable for that action.

Barber Creek Treatment Plant

The county holds a permit from the state to construct a 1 million gallon per day wastewater treatment plant on the Land Application site on Rocky Branch Road.

In early 2017, the county renewed the permit, which runs through 2022.

Plans for the plant are on hold at present and are inconsistent with the current strategy of relying on gravity rather than pump stations to get sewage to a treatment plant.

The Land Application Site is at a high point in the county, making pump stations necessary to move sewage to it.

Another problem with the permit is that it is for discharge into Barber Creek, and the proposed plant site is on a tributary to Barber Creek, not the creek itself.

The county would have to get the sewage from the plant site to Barber Creek via a pipe across property it does not own.

Friends And Board

The Friends of Barber Creek did not oppose the construction of the wastewater treatment plant, but, instead, focused on three requests.

The Friends asked the Board of Commissioners to commit to using membrane filtration in construction of the plant, as had been proposed originally.

We also asked that holding ponds be installed at the site so no water would discharged into the creek at times of flooding along the creek.

And we asked to be allowed to be involved in monitoring of the plant’s performance.

The Board of Commissioners in 2008 agreed to the first two requests and said the county would make available to the public all of the data it was required to gather on plant operation as part of its permitting agreements with the state.

A future Board of Commissioners can overturn those agreements, and the replacement plant being built at Calls Creek will not use membrane filtration, which has proven to be costly and difficult to operate.

Friends of Barber Creek List

The Friends of Barber Creek has engaged in cleanup efforts along roadways leading to the creek and with Oconee Waters, a branch of the Upper Oconee Watershed Network, a volunteer group involved in protecting the Upper Oconee watershed.

I called the Board together for the meeting at my house on Monday to consider what role the Board what might want to play in discussions about the Water and Wastewater Master Plan.

I also invited Antley to join us and suggested he become president.

Those wishing to stay in touch with activities of Friends of Barber Creek should contact Antley at aantley22@gmail.com.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Oconee County Issues Building Permit For Online Grocery Operation At Epps Bridge Walmart

March Launch

Oconee County issued a building permit late last month for alterations to the Walmart Super Center, 1911 Epps Bridge Parkway, to incorporate an online grocery operation at the store.

Included is restriping of parking on the west side of the building to denote online grocery pickup parking and parking lot signage for the designated area.

Secretary Of State Candidate Told Oconee County Republicans He Wants To Make Sure Only Americans Vote In State Elections

Takes Pro Business Stance

Brad Raffensperger told Oconee County Republicans he is motivated by three key issues in his bid to get the Republican nomination for Secretary of State in the May 22 primary.

He said he wants to make sure that only Americans vote in elections in the state, that Georgia is a great place to find a job, and that Georgia is a great place to build a business.

Speaker Tells Oconee Democrats They Need To Reach Out To Others To Win Elections

***Urged Involvement In Local Races***

Democratic activist Daniel Blackman from Forsyth County told the gathering of Oconee County Democrats last month that he was really pleased to see so many people in the audience, but he said it wasn’t enough.

Blackman said there were not enough young people in the group.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Georgia Department of Transportation Has Lifted Stop Work Order Halting Construction On Mars Hill Road

***In Place Since December***

The Georgia Department of Transportation lifted a stop-work order last week against G.P.’s Enterprises Inc., contractor for the widening of Mars Hill Road, that had halted all work on the road project since December of last year.

GDOT had issued the stop work order after discovering problems with storm water drainage at the bridge over Barber Creek that resulted in dirt and sediment entering Barber Creek.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Oconee County, Fearing Legal Challenge, Revises Its Sign Ordinance

***Removes Content References***

The Oconee County Board of Commissioners last week acted quickly to change the county’s sign ordinance in an effort to strip the document of any reference to the content of the signs and thus avoid a lawsuit.

The Board took the action at the urging of County Attorney Daniel Haygood, who told the Board he was afraid the existing sign ordinance left the county vulnerable to a legal challenge in light of the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in an Arizona case in 2015 greatly restricting how local governments can regulate signs.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Future Development Map Attracts Attention At Public Forum On Revisions To Comprehensive Plan

***Light Turnout At Meeting***

Monday night’s meeting at the Community Center in Oconee Veterans Park was billed as a Public Forum on the 2018 revision to the county’s Comprehensive Plan.

Opportunities for feedback on the current draft of the plan were quite limited, and only a small number of people not engaged with creation of the draft were in the audience.

Oconee County Chairman Tells Board Of Education County Roadwork At New Elementary School Is Progressing

***Responding To Questions***

Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chairman John Daniell appeared at the Monday meeting of the Oconee County Board of Education to reassure Board of Education members that the county is moving expeditiously on roadwork around Dove Creek Elementary School, set to open next school year.

Daniell’s comments followed questions from Board of Education members about the county’s work on the entrances to the school at the Jan. 22 meeting and again on Monday and reports from Facilities Director Jake Grant that the county was behind on the project.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Oconee County Reports Another Spill At Calls Creek Plant

***Monday And Tuesday***

Oconee County late Tuesday reported its second major spill in less than a month from its Calls Creek wastewater treatment plant outside Watkinsville.

According to the county, an estimated 72,000 gallons of partially treated wastewater was released on Monday and Tuesday (Feb. 5 and 6) into Calls Creek from the plant, which is located at 1100 Durhams Mill Way, on the north side of Watkisville.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Public Forum On Comprehensive Plan Set For Monday Night At Oconee Veterans Park

***Draft Plan Available For Review***

Oconee County citizens get their first chance tomorrow (Monday) night to review the nearly-completed work of the 29-member citizen Stakeholders Committee, which has worked in collaboration with the county consultants to draft a 2018 Comprehensive Plan.

Based on citizen input at the meeting tomorrow, the consultants are scheduled to make changes to the document to be discussed at a final meeting of the Stakeholders Committee in early March.

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Oconee County Library Friends Winter Book Sale Will Help Fund Summer Reading Program At Watkinsville Library

***Feb. 8-10 At Library***

Oconee County Library Friends will direct funds raised through its winter used book sale from Feb. 8 to 10 to support of the summer reading program at the Oconee County Library on Experiment Station Road in Watkinsville.

Rebecca Ballard, children’s specialist at the library, said children experience a “summer slump” in reading when school is not in session, and the summer reading program is designed to address that.

Friday, February 02, 2018

Citizens Seek To Make New Friends Across Party Lines On Rainy Sunday In Oconee County

***Oconee Progressives And Democrats Are Sponsors***

Twenty-eight people turned out at the Oconee County Library in Watkinsville on last Sunday’s rainy afternoon to exchange nonpartisan conversation with the goals of getting to know each other and of building community.

The sponsors, the Oconee Progressives and Oconee Democrats, had reached out across party lines with their invitations, and they were successful.