Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Excess Land At Proposed Site For New Oconee County Sewer Plant Could Be Used For Recreation

***Concept Plan Released***

A future sewage plant on acreage Oconee County is purchasing on the Middle Oconee River might include picnic areas and walking trails if a concept plan presented at a Board of Commissioners Town Hall meeting last (Tuesday) night is implemented.

Commission Chair John Daniell said the county is about to close on two parcels of land on the river off Rockinwood Drive for a sewage plant, but construction of such a facility is years away.

The Board of Commissioners voted to purchase the parcels, one totaling about 62 acres and the other about 10 acres, at its meeting on June 5.

Daniell said there is enough acreage for a “passive park” on the site.

The Town Hall Meeting drew only 11 citizens and lasted only a half hour.

Questions focused on wastewater treatment, bike trails, roads, and Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax spending.

Concept Plan

The concept plan Daniell distributed at the beginning of the meeting shows a new water treatment plant occupying approximately 42 acres on the Middle Oconee River site and public use areas taking up the remaining 32 acres.

Concept Plan (Click To Enlarge)

Access to the treatment plant and to the recreational areas would be off a new road connecting with the very end of Rockinwood Drive, which intersects the Old Macon Highway and U.S. 441 just northeast of the Athens Academy campus.

The concept plan, produced by Precision Planning Inc. of Monroe, shows a trail looping through what is now a heavily wooded site past a pond and then along the bank of the Middle Oconee River.

Daniell told the citizens that there is no schedule for actual construction of the wastewater treatment plant or park on the site.

“This is a very rough concept plan of what the 70 acres would be used for,” Daniell said.

Citizen Questions

The Town Hall meeting was held in one of the large meeting rooms at the Oconee County campus of the University of North Georgia, off Experiment Station Road.

Daniell responded to the first question--from Michael Prochaska, editor of The Oconee Enterprise--by saying the expanded Calls Creek sewage treatment plant is on schedule to be operating next month.

He then expanded on his answer by saying the county expected to close this week on the 74 acres for a future plant on the river. He asked County Administrator Justin Kirouac to pass out copies of the concept plan.

Allan Antley, president of Friends of Barber Creek, said he applauded the work on the Middle Oconee River site.

“As you know, one of the big concerns that we have is how we’re going to get wastewater to that plant,” said Antley, who lives on Barber Creek in the Lake Wellbrook subdivision off Daniells Bridge Road.

Daniell said any construction of a sewer line down the part of Barber Creek where Antley lives “would be way out into the future if it ever occurred,” but he said there likely would be discussion of sewer lines on the upper part of the creek maybe “a little quicker.”

SPLOST And Paths

Daniell said the county was spending SPLOST funds that had been held in the past but didn’t want to spend on projects needlessly.

Watkinsville Council Member Dan Matthews called for more bike paths connecting parts of the county “so people don’t have to take their lives in their hands when they are walking or riding a bike.”

Daniell said bike paths and walking trials have been “on our priority list” since he took over as chair in 2017, but “There are a lot of property rights things we have to deal with as well.”

“Everybody likes a river walk and a bike path until it is on your piece of property,” he said.

He said the county wants to move forward on a rails to trails project but is stymied because the rail line running through the county is still considered active, even though much of it is not being used.

Roads And Elder Mill Bridge

Commissioner Chuck Horton, in response to a question, said one of his big concerns was roads in the county.

He said there are subdivisions around the county with cracked roads that need to be fixed.

“That’s another problem we’ve got to deal with,” he said. “It isn’t going away.”

Daniell, responding to anther question, said he did not think the county was going to create a park in the area around Elder Mill Bridge, as has been advocated in the past.

This might be done by private interests, he said.

Land Purchase For Sewer Plant

The Board of Commissioner went into executive session after its regular meeting on June 5 and then returned to an open meeting to announce the purchase agreements for the two properties on Rockinwood Drive.

Two Parcels Under Contract (Click To Enlarge)

County Attorney Daniel Haygood said that two purchase agreements existed for the properties, both with Steve Ebbert of Southern Land Exchange on Daniells Bridge Road, and the county would take over the contracts from Ebbert.

According to county tax records, the larger of the properties, at roughly 62 acres, is owned by Brightwell LLC, contains no buildings, and is assessed at $389,097. That value is less than the fair market value because of a conservation covenant.

The registered agent for Brightwell LLC is John S. Ivy, 1895 Tallassee Road, Athens.

The county agreed to paid $28,000 per acre, or $1.7 million, for the Brightwell property.

The property contains a power line easement on which nothing can be built.

Second Property

The smaller property, at approximately 10 acres, is owned by Patricia Wynn Ivy, 1350 Allgood Road, off nearby Lavista Road.

That property also contains no buildings and is assessed at $199,890, according to county tax records.

The county agreed to pay $30 per acre, or $300,000.

The parcel includes a little more than half of a small pond on it and an adjoining property.

Neither property actually has access to Rockinwood Drive.

The concept plan that Daniell passed out at the Town Hall meeting shows a planned access road across property currently owned by Athens Academy, according to the county’s tax records.

That access was not discussed at the Commission meeting on June 5 or at the Town Hall meeting. (Daniell told me in an email message of 7/12 that an easement already exists across the Athens Academy property.)

The concept plan lists total acreage for the two properties at 74, while County Attorney Haygood gave the combined acreage as 72.

Across River

The land on the other side of the river from the 74 acres Oconee County is purchasing is owned by the University System of Georgia Board of Regents and is heavily forested. It includes the State Botanical Garden.

Daniell told me this morning in a conversation following a MACORTS Policy Committee meeting that the county has been looking for appropriate sites for a sewer plant for some time.

All studies the county has done indicate the Middle Oconee is the proper place for such a plant, he said, so “we set out to see what we could find.”

Daniell said money for purchase of the property will come out of the general operating budget of the Water Resources Department, formerly called the Utility Department.

Calls Creek Discharge

The concept plan Daniell distributed at the Town Hall meeting shows a forced main sewer line running to the new plant from the current Calls Creek sewage plant on the northeast side of Watkinsville.

That plant currently is being expanded to 1.5 million gallons per day and was designed so it can be expanded to 3 million gallons per day.

Daniell said last night that when the plant is expanded beyond 1.5 million gallons per day the wastewater would be pumped for discharge at the site off Rockinwood Road.

This sewer line to the Rockinwood Road site would replace the sewer line down Calls Creek proposed when Melvin Davis was chair of the Board of Commissioners.

Daniell said last night the site on the river is large enough to accommodate a treatment plant with 10 million gallons per day capacity.

Daniell told me today he expects that the Rockinwood Road site ultimately will house the county’s only sewage treatment plant and that the Calls Creek site will be decommissioned at some time in the future.

Daniell told me in an email message of 7/12 that, based on current county policy for allocation of sewer, "I believe we are talking 15 to 20 years" before a treatment plant would be built on the Middle Oconee River site. Video

The video below is of the entire Town Hall meeting.

Daniell made his comments on the Middle Oconee River property at 1:00 in the video.

OCO: BOC Town Hall 7 10 18 from Lee Becker on Vimeo.

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