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Danielsville offers sewer system to county

Take our sewer system, please.

That’s the message from the City of Danielsville to the Madison County government.

City leaders say that the sewer pond behind Madison County High School is nearing capacity. That pond handles sewage for city residents, businesses, the county government, the county jail and schools in Danielsville.

The town doesn’t have the financial leverage that the county government has. It can’t secure grants or loans at the same scale as a bigger government entity. And now that plans are in the works for a nearly 14,000-square foot Department of Family and Children Services (DFACS) facility in town, the city is asking the county to take over the sewer services in the county seat.

“City officials feel that the operation of the only sewer infrastructure, servicing city residents and businesses, county government facilities and a multiple number of schools, may be better served by the county due to the vast resources available through the county government that could be utilized to properly expand the current system,” wrote new Danielsville Mayor Michael Wideman to county commission chairman John Scarborough and the county commissioners. “That being said, would the county consider taking operation of the sewer system in an effort to better the sewer services needed to continue growth in both the city and the county?”

Wideman followed his letter by approaching county commissioners in person Monday at their regular meeting. He asked the board to consider taking the sewer system. Commissioner Tripp Strickland said he appreciated the city’s request, adding that “it’s a step in the right direction” and that he is interested in doing “anything we can do to enhance the county seat.”

“I know that’s a burden on y’all,” Strickland said to Wideman regarding the sewer system.

Commissioner Theresa Bettis added: “We’re all on the same team.”

No votes were taken Monday. Scarborough suggested that the matter might be taken up Tuesday at the county industrial authority meeting. However, the IDA didn’t talk about the proposal Tuesday. The industrial authority oversees the county’s water and sewer services.

RECENT TENSIONS

The city’s request comes amid recent tensions between the city, the county government and school system regarding the sewer system, the DFACS building and increased water rates.

Danielsville has struggled to find funds to upgrade its sewer system. The town sought financial aid from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to upgrade its sewer pond. But the USDA has denied funding city projects, because it says debt services will be too severe on a town of so few residents.

Wideman said the financial predicament left the town with few options. So it significantly raised water rates on the county school system and county government in January. School and county officials were not pleased with this move.

“While the new rate structuring was not adopted to intentionally cause a financial burden on the BOC or the BOE, the council found themselves in a place of financial burden and felt there was no other solution available at that time, except to try and spread the burden more equally among the users of the sewerage system in order to afford the inevitable debt service we are going to face,” wrote Wideman.

A DECISION POSTPONED

The water rate matter coincides with the rezoning request by the school system for the old school board office property off Hwy. 29 across the road from Burger King in Danielsville. The school system is selling the land to developer Don Chandler of Municipal Development Services, who was awarded a $5 million state contract to construct a new DFACS building at the site. The property is zoned residential and the school board has requested that the city council rezone the property to commercial so Chandler can proceed with tearing down the old school board office and constructing a DFACS facility.

The council tabled a decision on that matter earlier this month as questions arose about an easement across private property to serve as the entrance to the new facility. Danielsville leaders will consider the matter again at their regular March meeting.

While the easement issue remains, the council has said its primary concern with the construction of a new DFACS building is the proposed sewage capacity for the facility.

“As far as the proposed DFACS building, city officials are pro-growth and not necessarily opposed to new construction of the proposed building,” wrote Wideman. “The real concern for city officials is the sewer capacity requested (40,000 gallons per month). Giving a guarantee to one consumer to use all of the remaining available capacity would be irresponsible of city officials, since, officials know they currently have no immediate means of expanding the current system.”

The mayor added that there would be “no new growth possible until the wastewater pond receives upgrades supporting expansion.”

Chandler and Scarborough said they have received assurances from city engineers that the sewage pond has enough capacity to handle the addition of a new DFACS building.

Last April, David Tyre of Turnipseed Engineers, who provides engineering services for the Danielsville sewer system, said “the pond has the capacity to handle the new sewer flows.”

But he added that expansion is needed.

“The flows are increasing though and we are going to need the planned permit increase to 150,000 gallons per day sooner rather than later,” wrote Tyre.

On Feb. 12, Tyre wrote to Danielsville City Clerk Susan Payne, telling her that “the capacity of the pond is either exceeded or very close to it.” He wrote that adding the DFACS facility without expanding the sewer system will limit what the city can do moving forward.

“…Adding the DFACS building sewer usage without expanding…may prevent the city from providing sewerage service to its citizens who are currently on septic systems, or expanding service for growing county or board of education facilities,” wrote Tyre.

Payne said the town can’t handle the DFACS building without an upgrade to the sewer system.

“If the city council agrees to reserve the requested 40,000 gallons per month of sewer, the city's sewer will be maxed and there will be no additional space for future residents, growth of schools and expansion of county facilities,” she said.

CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN TOWN AND COUNTY

Scarborough has said the new DFACS facility is a big plus for the county and that he has not seen anything specific in terms of data that should keep the town from approving the rezoning for the facility. He has made it clear that he intends to get the facility constructed in Madison County to serve DFACS clients whether or not city officials are on board.

Along those lines, Scarborough sent an email to Wideman on Feb. 13 informing the mayor that he is considering options on how to proceed with the DFACS building. He said he sent a letter by certified mail informing the council that the county is providing a 90-day notice of termination of an intergovernmental agreement that allows the city to have a maintenance facility on county property. If an access to the DFACS facility is not available at the current entrance, then the county could establish an entrance where the current city maintenance building sits.

“While it is undetermined at this time whether that property would actually be needed to grant access to the proposed location for the new DFACS facility, it is nonetheless the county’s desire to initiate the 90-day notice to terminate should it be needed, thus eliminating another potential delay in the process,” wrote the BOC chairman.

Danielsville leaders were not happy about this notice.

Mayor Pro Tem Joe Federico responded to Scarborough’s letter on Feb. 13, saying that he will not be “pressured by your vindictive intentions” to vote for the proposed DFACS facility.

“We as the Danielsville City Council along with our past and present mayors have worked diligently for what we believe to be in the city and its residents’ best interest,” wrote Federico. “I also believe we will not waiver to the county’s desires knowing that the proposed project will have negative impacts on the city. I would sincerely recommend in the future, the BOC and BOE would include city officials in their planning sessions so situations like this one can be avoided going forward.”

Scarborough said he is not acting out of vindictiveness.

“It seems extremely short sighted that you see no benefit to the citizens of Danielsville having this new facility,” wrote Scarborough in response to Federico. “I do not share your view or those of the council if it is theirs as well, that there are only negative impacts to the city. I’m sure Danielsville residents would appreciate the services a new and modern facility would afford those in need.”

Scarborough said a rezoning is not actually needed to locate the facility on the property.

“As a final note, the county was not compelled to bring this rezone application before the city,” he wrote. “It did so after numerous conversations suggested the partnership might be improved. I’m still waiting to see evidence of that.”


News
County commissioners support creosote-ban bill

Madison County commissioners passed a resolution Monday supporting a bill that would ban the burning of creosote-treated wood at electricity-generating plants.

House Bill 857, which was introduced by representatives Alan Powell, Tom McCall and Rick Jasperse, would “prohibit the use of wood products treated with creosote compounds or treated with naphthenate compounds for the purposes of commercial electricity generation.”

The resolution notes that commissioners “heard complaints and concerns from many citizens regarding potential environmental and health hazards resulting from the burning of railroad ties” at the Georgia Renewable Power (GRP) plant in Colbert.

“…The governing authority of Madison County hereby endorses and urges the members of the General Assembly to approve, and the Governor to sign, House Bill 857, and further encourages GRP to take all steps possible to mitigate, reduce and eliminate potential environmental and health hazards resulting from its activities,” stated the resolution.

County commissioners voted 4-0 to pass the resolution. The action was met with applause from the audience. Brian Kirk was unable to attend the meeting due to a health matter.

Members of the Madison County Clean Power Coalition (MCCPC) stood at the podium thanking board members for hearing their concerns and taking action.

Drago Tesanovich, co-chair of MCCPC, said the bill to ban creosote is “a step in the right direction for the county and the whole state.” He also asked the board to consider looking at other proposals MCCPC recently presented to the commissioners to help protect citizens’ health and well being.

Gina Ward, co-chair of MCCPC, thanked the commissioners. She added that she would like to see the county and citizens do more planning so that residents can have protection as the Hwy. 72 industrial growth corridor is developed.

In another matter, Ruth Ann Tesanovich, secretary and treasurer of MCCPC, brought up lights at the plant and the glare at night when turning left onto H.V. Chandler Road from Hwy. 72. She asked the county to look at the traffic safety issue and perhaps see if something could be done to shield the light for motorists making the turn. She also said she also wants to know what plans are in place for fire services at the plant in case of an emergency.

In other business Monday, the board approved the purchase of a backhoe for the road department for $84,855 with Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) funds. A decision on updating the county’s purchasing policy was postponed. The board heard a quarterly report from county library director Jennifer Ivey, who reported that there were 66 adult programs with 523 participants between October and December at the library. In that same time, there were 141 total programs with 3,310 children in attendance. Robin Purcell was named to the county recreation board.

Commission chairman John Scarborough said local roads continue to take a pounding from all the rain. He said the county has declared a local state of emergency, which will open the door for potential state funding if a wider flooding emergency is declared. A number of roads have washed out over the past couple of weeks, and the rainy weather has hindered efforts to repair them.

Commissioner Derek Doster said he wants to see goals and objectives set for departments, adding that he would like to see the creation of a master list of employee training purposes, so commissioners can have a better view of employee training needs as they set the budget. He said he would like to see clear guidelines regarding driveways attaching to county rights of way. And he said he would like to see the industrial authority complete a rate study for its water services.


News
Qualifying for local elections set for March 2-6

It’s time for local 2020 election hopefuls to officially jump in the race.

Qualifying for local elections begins at 9 a.m., Monday, March 2, and will end at noon Friday, March 6. Primaries and non partisan elections will be held May 19.

All candidates who wish to qualify for all races will qualify at the Board of Elections and Registration Office, 94 Spring Lake Drive, Danielsville.

For information, contact Tracy Dean at the Board of Elections and Registration Office at 706-795-6335.

Qualifying fees are as follows: Sheriff, $1,943.28; Clerk of Superior Court, $1,591.05; Tax Commissioner, $1,591.05; Probate Judge, $1,591.05; Chairman, BOC, $1,943.28; BOC, District 1 and 2 Commissioners, $216; Board of Education, $94.62; and Coroner, $351.81.


News
BOC to consider resolution to make Madison Co. a ‘Second Amendment Sanctuary’

Madison County could become a “Second Amendment Sanctuary County.”

County commissioners will consider adopting a resolution March 2 declaring their support for ignoring any federal laws that are deemed a “violation of the Second Amendment.”

Here are some key stipulations in the resolution to be considered:

•“Whereas, U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed that the federal government cannot compel state law enforcement officers to enforce federal laws. (Prinz vs. United States 1997).”

•“Whereas all federal acts, laws, orders, rules or regulations regarding firearms, firearms accessories and ammunition are a violation of the Second Amendment…”

•“It is the desire of the Madison County Board of Commissioners to declare its support of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution and to the provisions of the Constitution of the State of Georgia that protects Madison County citizens’ individual inalienable rights to keep and bear arms.”

•“Be it further resolved that the Madison County Board of Commissioners affirms its support for the Madison County Sheriff in the exercise of his sound discretion to not enforce against any citizen an unconstitutional firearms law.”

•“Be it further resolved that no agent, employee or official of Madison County or any corporation providing services to Madison County, shall provide material support or participate in any way with the implementation of federal acts, orders, rules, laws or regulations in violation of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

•“Be it further resolved that the Madison County Board of Commissioners will not authorize or appropriate funds, resources, employees, agencies, contractors, buildings, detention centers or offices for the purpose of enforcing or assisting in the enforcement of any element of any acts, laws, orders, mandates, rules or regulations that infringe on the right by the people to keep and bear arms.”


Public_safety
Man charged after pulling knife on bus driver, store clerk

A man was apprehended Wednesday, Feb. 19 after allegedly pulling a knife on a bus driver and a store clerk.

Edward Lee Wessinger, Jr., 42, of Arnoldsville, was taken into custody and charged with three counts of aggravated assault, armed robbery, criminal trespass and false imprisonment.

Around 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, Deputy Derek Shelton, Deputy Joe McGuffin and other officers were dispatched to Ingles regarding a white male (Wessinger) wearing gray pants and jacket with no shoes on who was threatening and brandishing a knife at an Athens Transit bus driver at the bus stop in the Ingles parking lot.

While in route, Shelton was informed that Wessinger was seen running down Hwy. 29 South toward the Athens-Clarke County line. While in the area looking for him, dispatch received a 911 call from the Apex convenience store on Old Danielsville Road, across from Ingles. The store clerk stated that they had just had an armed robbery and described the robber as someone matching Wessinger’s description.

Deputy McGuffin spoke with the bus driver, who stated that she parked the transit bus in the parking lot of Ingles and went inside to use the restroom. She said that when she returned to the bus, she saw a white male with a gray sweatshirt and gray sweatpants and no shoes standing at the bus door. She told him that he could not ride the bus without shoes.

She said as she got on the bus, he followed her on board and pulled a “razor knife.” She stated that he sat down and told her “you better drive the d#$% bus.” She stated that she panicked and ran off the bus. She said she called 911 and looked back to see the male getting behind the wheel of the bus (as if to drive off), but it appeared to her that he did not know how to operate the bus or release the brakes. He got off the bus and started walking fast towards First Citizens Bank.

An Ingles manager told McGuffin that Wessinger was walking around the store before that and had frightened some of the deli workers. The manager also said Wessinger had some clothing and an open can of beer outside in front of the store that he believed he had shoplifted the items. The manager said he had told the man to leave the store and escorted him out.

Meanwhile, Shelton met with the Apex store clerk, who was shaking and upset and she told him that the man came into the store barefoot, grabbed a pair of shoes and a pack of socks and then walked around to the deli area and sat down. After that, he fixed himself a cup of coffee and stood near the cash register near the entrance.

After several customers left, Wessinger reportedly came behind the counter and pulled a box knife on her and told her to open the register. She opened the cash drawer and then jumped over the counter yelling to a coworker for help. A customer in the store also heard her and grabbed a yellow floor sign in an attempt to keep Wessinger from hurting her as he left the store. The clerk said he left with a stack of cash that was paper-clipped and in the amount of $990. The customer chased the man around the store and store video later showed him brandishing the knife at the customer as well.

The co-worker said she was working in the kitchen and had a Ruger pistol with her. She said she told Wessinger she had a gun. She also told Shelton that Wessinger appeared to be the same man who had been in the store the night before and had stayed inside the store for about an hour, which she thought was strange.

Wessinger dropped a cell phone and the cash as he ran from the store. The phone was unlocked so Shelton was able to view a picture of him and he showed it to the victim and witnesses, who confirmed Wessinger was the robber. Store video also confirmed the witnesses’ stories.

After a brief search involving Madison, Athens-Clarke and Georgia State Patrol officers, the suspect was located and arrested at another convenience store just inside of Athens-Clarke County, according to a post on the sheriff’s office Facebook page.


News
Scarborough, county sued for July wreck involving chairman

A Loganville woman has filed a civil suit against Madison County Commission Chairman John Scarborough and the Madison County Board of Commissioners over an automobile accident she had with the chairman on the Athens loop on July 17, 2019. Scarborough said he was traveling to an area Action Inc. meeting in Athens when the wreck occurred.

According to an accident report from the Athens-Clarke County Police Department, Diane Meishelle Hodge was traveling in a 2013 Ford Fusion when she attempted to change lanes in rainy conditions due to traffic ahead on the Outer Loop Georgia 10 Highway near Tallassee Road. She was struck from behind by Scarborough, who traveled in a county-owned 2012 Chevrolet Tahoe. Julie Phillips was also listed as a passenger in the vehicle.

“(Hodge) thought she had enough clearance to make a lane change,” the report stated. “(Scarborough) was traveling in the right lane traveling straight. (Hodge) came into his lane of traffic. (Scarborough) did not have enough distance to stop and struck (Hodge) in the rear causing functional damage to both vehicles.”

The impact of the collision knocked Hodge’s car into a third vehicle driven by Sylvia Dorsey of Social Circle. Hodge suffered undisclosed injuries. Dorsey complained of neck pain.

Hodge, who was cited for failure to maintain lane, told the officer: “I had enough space to make the lane change.”

Scarborough said: “She just came into my lane and I tried to stop.”

In a letter issued to Scarborough, Hodge’s attorney, Adam Cain, said his client is seeking compensation for injuries sustained in the wreck.

“To the extent that you require us to provide a dollar value for this claim, we believe that the value of this claim may exceed $25,000,” wrote Cain.