By Pat Cooper
The Fayette County Board of Commissioners have moved on to stage two of their campaign to inform the public about the stormwater issues that have arisen and that warrant expensive repairs to the county infrastructure and will, if residents vote in favor, will be fixed using a Special Local Option Sales Tax.
Commission chairman Steve Brown is also shooting back at a local environmentalist’s opinion that the county hadn’t proved the need for the project list that had been presented to county residents.
According to Dennis Chase, after visiting about 20 of the sites, he still hasn’t found anything that would demand these projects be added.
In a recent letter to the editor, Chase said,
“We are being asked to vote for a tax for with very little understanding of what it is for, other than, ‘If you don’t, holes will open in the roads, so just say yes.’After reviewing everything available, I am even more opposed to the project list now.
My opposition is not about how the Board of Commissioners are trying to fund projects. Rather it is the lack of evidence of knowing what the money is for.
“It has been suggested that I need to be offering solutions. But what they want is solutions on how to raise a lot of money, and not talk about the specifics of projects.
I appreciate the commissioners’ push to fix what they believe are problems, but without a watershed drainage plan to analyze impacts of so much work, it can very well lead to unintended consequences — consequences that we will have to fix later.
Is there really a reason for rushing into this without knowing what impacts may result?”
One of the Category I projects is the Longview Dam (AKA Margaret Phillips Lake Dam) is a Category I structure within the right-of-way of Longview Road. The county says repairing the dam is contingent upon the upstream lake being deeded to Fayette County for use as a passive park and/or environmentally protected area.
Chase says that no information is provided on what they intend to do with $1,212,647 estimated for this project.
“When I visited the site, I concluded that there are problems with this dam. Mostly because the road is built right on top of the dam and because there were large trees growing the entire length. Large trees, even small trees, indicate that the structure is full of roots endangering the structure.
“But here is the problem. One family owns almost everything on both sides of the dam, including the entire lake. I don’t know if the road is owned by the county or the family. However, fixing this structure will be ensuring the property owner will continue to have his own private lake.
“And, if the county is legally obligated to do this work, then we need to know a few things. First, obviously, what is the plan to fix the structure? Second, what alternatives were considered? Does this project lay long-term liability on the county? And, is the county on the hook for yearly maintenance?
“One possible alternative I would like to see is the cost of an adequately-sized box culvert installed in the dam which would drain the lake. Suppose the cost of this new culvert were to be $600,000. Why then should we be paying 1.2 million at this location?
“Taking that a step further, if the property owner demands that the lake be maintained, then it should be their responsibility to contribute the difference between the box culvert and whatever the current project estimate covers.
“In addition, if the tax payers agree to do the dam repair, then the property owner will be assessed 50 percent of the yearly maintenance costs. I’m all for saving $600,000, aren’t you? But all of that is missing from the SPLOST list.”
Commission chairman Steve Brown noted that Chase’s chief complaint was that he has no information on the dam projects. “The county personally told the editors of both local newspapers and Mr. Chase that our subcontracted engineers could not get the project data and costs on the dams to us by July 8 when we promised the
“We told the editors and Mr. Chase that we would send the information on the dams over once we received it. Mr. Chase knew this and I am disappointed that he chose to give a blatant misrepresentation of the promise we extended as though we had no intention of providing the data.
“As promised, we now have the data on the dams from Walden, Ashworth and Associates, Inc. and are updating all the workbooks and online copies. “
Brown said the state government requires that the dams be brought into compliance with the Georgia Safe Dams
Act of 1978.
“This is a mandate from the state and
it is the right thing to do prevent possible loss of life and property.
“We have two options per the state: upgrade the dams or breach the dams. Both options have considerable costs and we currently do not have the funding for either option. Doing nothing is not a choice available to us.
The current Board of Commissioners did not build the dams or the county roads adjacent to the dams. We are simply trying to resolve the problem.”
Chase’s next example on the county list was on Roberts Road, just north of Fayetteville. Currently, water simply flows over the gravel road; no structures of any kind. The county proposes spending $359,642 to fix it. But with no plan, who knows what the impacts will be. In this case, the drainage is between two junk car lots. Approximately 37 acres of old cars are parked on those lots in varying stages of deterioration. There are a number of toxic chemicals flowing into Morning Creek, and eventually some of that water goes into the county water system. My guess is they plan a new culvert to allow water to flow under the road. Even though a plan to prevent this pollution should be an important part of the project, I doubt it exists.”
Brown said he was incensed that Chase would accuse the county of willy-nilly creating a “toxic chemical flow” from two auto junk yards in the Roberts Road area into the local creek by our planned
project there, stating no pollution control
“First of all, the water is flowing to the auto junk yards now, anyway (Mr. Chase knows this). Why would controlling the water be more harmful?
Second, in 2008, the Metropolitan North Georgia Water District required implementation of the “Illicit Discharge and Detection” program and our staff notified auto salvage companies in the county they were not in compliance with Georgia Industrial National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit requirements.
“Auto salvage yards are one of 10 categories required to have an Industrial National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System by the Federal and State government [specifically, 40 CFR 122.26(b)(14)]. “This permit requires industrial facilities to develop and implement stormwater
management practices to control pollutants in discharges of storm waters associated with industrial activity from the auto salvage yards.
“So, much to their credit, all auto salvage yard owners complied with these stormwater requirements at significant cost to their operations and submitted “Notice of Intents” within 2008 and updated them in 2012 as required by state law.
“Now the reason I am so riled about Mr. Chase’s inciting comments about “toxic chemicals” and no prevention is that I, personally, had our county staff give Mr. Chase a copy of that report in February of 2013.
“We are the only government in metro Atlanta willing to give straight answers for any Core Infrastructure SPLOST questions or receive your comments seven days a week by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. We also release the questions and answers to the news media.”