County: City to help us with sewage

Published 7:19 pm Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Decatur County may get some help from the City of Bainbridge in dealing with issues at the county’s aging wastewater treatment plant.

The county’s wastewater treatment plant, which serves customers at the Industrial Air Park off U.S. 27 North, is about 30 years old and is in need of major upgrades estimated to cost $3 million.

Recently, Decatur County Commissioners accepted a consent order agreement with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division over quality control issues that according to state officials, caused raw sewage to be dumped into the Flint River.

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The consent order stipulates the county pay a $15,000 fine and take steps to upgrade the wastewater treatment plant. County Administrator Tom Patton said the county made its first payment toward the fine this past week.

“[City officials] said they would be willing to take on the Industrial Park sewage contingent upon us both doing engineering surveys [at the treatment plant],” County Finance Director Carl Rowland said Tuesday. “The details have not been hammered out yet, but basically, the sewage would be piped from the county’s treatment plant into the city’s sewage system.”

Watkins and Associates of Tifton, Ga., which advises the county on engineering matters related to its wastewater treatment plant, will be commissioned to work on technical aspects related to the new plan, Rowland said. Watkins previously conducted a water/sewer rate study for the county and had already recommended the county upgrade its treatment plant prior to the EPD’s discovery of issues at the plant in Spring 2009.

“I want to publicly thank the City of Bainbridge for helping us out with our sewage problem,” County Commission Chairman Butch Mosely said during commissioners’ Tuesday morning meeting. “I think we are all indebted to them, and I think it will save taxpayers a lot of money.”

The City of Bainbridge is currently working on the third of four phases in its fast-track plan to extend city sewer services throughout almost all of city limits. The fourth phase will extend sewer lines to areas between the Flint River and Georgia 97 North, including Liz Felty Lane and the surrounding neighborhood in northeast Bainbridge. A long sewer line connecting the neighborhood back to the city’s treatment plant will run along next to the Flint River, according to City Manager Chris Hobby.

Bainbridge’s wastewater treatment plant on Cox Avenue was also built during the 1970s. Although it’s designed differently than the county’s plant, the city’s treatment plant has undergone several major upgrades in the past few years.

Fuel prices affecting county

County commissioners will consider revising county purchasing policies in reaction to ballooning costs of unleaded gasoline, diesel and aviation fuel.

County Treasurer Claude Shirley presented commissioners with a list of fuel expenditures in recent months. The county has contracts to buy fuel at wholesale prices in order to keep its fleet of vehicles and large equipment operating. It also buys aviation fuel, which it re-sells to planes at the Industrial Air Park.

Recently, the county’s fuel purchases have increased, with as much as $14,000 worth of fuel being delivered at one time, according to Shirley’s figures. Under county purchasing policy, any expenditures of $10,000 or more are supposed to be brought before county commissioners for their approval. However, due to the necessity of operating county government, the fuel purchases of more than $10,000 have been made in anticipation of commissioners’ OK.

“I just wanted to bring this to commissioners’ attention and see whether they were comfortable with it,” Shirley said Tuesday. “Often the county’s department heads can’t wait for the next commission meeting.”

Finance Director Rowland said he estimated that recent increases in gas prices have increased the county’s fuel budget by 20-25 percent. As recently as Summer 2009, the county had been budgeting for gas to be bought wholesale at $2.75 per gallon, Rowland said. This week, it’s more than $3.80 per gallon at the pump.

Rowland said he and other officials have stressed the need for vehicles and equipment to be shut off when they are not in active use, in an attempt to save fuel.