Citizens in the Colbert area continue to seek relief from noise from Georgia Renewable Power (GRP).

And county commissioners discussed the matter again Monday. Meanwhile, a GRP official says more noise-mitigation equipment will soon be installed.

Madison County recently received a report from an independent company, Arpeggio, on the noise impact of GRP on the surrounding area. The company placed sound sensors at different locations around GRP between Feb. 19-21 to monitor noise from the plant. Arpeggio reported that two locations fall within the “moderate annoyance, daytime and evening” category and that nighttime sound levels at two monitoring sites “were consistently in the low to mid 50s on Friday night and Saturday morning, well above the 45 dBA recommended outside bedrooms to avoid sleep disturbance with windows open.”

The Madison County Clean Power Coalition said the study validates complaints from residents about the noise.

“Even though during the three-day assessment period wet weather caused operations to slow (and were possibly uncharacteristically quiet), the findings still show the irritating spikes in noise from the GRP plant,” wrote Wendy Sue Meehan of MCCPC. “Some of the spikes are attributed to traffic and railroad noise, but there is no doubt the plant is generating noise at unacceptable levels.”

MCCPC recently conducted a survey of residents in the area, with 165 respondents. Seventy-three percent of respondents said they can’t enjoy yard activities due to the noise. Fifty-three percent of the respondents said their sleep had been interrupted due to the noise.

Ted Fowler, who lives .4 miles from the plant, said the noise is bad at night.

“The noise level is 80 decibels, we cannot hear the TV, it is almost time to go to bed but who can sleep with a noise like what we are hearing,” he said.

Meanwhile, GRP says studies show there is not a significant noise issue from the plant. But they say there are plans to install more noise-mitigation equipment to address citizens’ concerns.

“GRP engaged a consultant that specializes in the evaluation of power plant noise to analyze the data and conclusions of the noise study of the Madison facility prepared for Madison County,” wrote GRP Executive Vice President Carey Davis. “The consultant has concluded that the data included in the county study accurately reflects the measured noise levels at on-site and off-site study locations. Further, the data indicates that the operations of the facility produce a consistent sound level at the property boundary that is reasonable for this type of industrial facility.”

Davis said that “data indicates that measured sound levels were at or very near levels identified by the county report as acceptable at all off-site locations.” He said GRP has addressed noise concerns and installed noise reduction technologies. And more mitigation equipment is on the way.

“GRP, through its expert consultant, performed an independent review of potential sources of noise from the facility and purchased additional equipment to reduce noise from the stack fan, which is an identified source of near and far field noise from the facility,” wrote Davis. “Despite the results of the county study indicating that the noise levels are not excessive, the facility plans to install this equipment as a means of advancing efforts to further address the community’s concerns. The equipment is scheduled to be installed as soon as possible, perhaps during the facility's scheduled outage this month.”

Drago Tesanovich, co-chair of the Madison County Clean Power Coalition, appeared before county commissioners Monday to ask for a public meeting with citizens, the commissioners and GRP representatives to discuss the noise issue.

Rather than a large public hearing, board chairman Todd Higdon said he felt two representatives from the BOC, two from MCCPC and perhaps a couple of representatives from GRP should get together and meet and see if they can iron out solutions. He said he felt this would be productive. No date was set as of press time for such a meeting.

T-SPLOST VOTE AHEAD

In another matter Monday, Madison County commissioners plan to vote April 19 on whether to present a one-cent county transportation sales tax to voters in November. Several area counties have approved such a tax to fund road improvement within their counties.

COURTHOUSE SECURITY

In a separate matter, Higdon gave a report on courthouse security over the first quarter of 2021. He noted that 5,031 people visited the courthouse in January, 5,214 in February and 5,377 in March.

The chairman said there were 95 weapons collected and held by courthouse security in January while people visited the complex. There were 74 held in February and 81 in March. Three people were denied entry in January, six in February and one in March.

“I feel like the public ought to know how good a job these guys have done down here,” said Higdon. “They do a really good job keeping all of safe on a daily basis.”

RECREATION DISCUSSIONS

The board once again held a lengthy discussion on operations at the recreation department. Higdon said he felt a lot of confusion about facility use will be cleared up by providing clear communication about what’s expected. He said current rules aren’t written in easy-to-understand language and he said those rules need to be simplified and provided in clear, written form. Commissioner Brian Kirk agreed and said the department doesn’t need to be overly eager to assess fees, but it needs compensation for activities that cost the county, such as use of lights. Commissioners suggested that Angela Rouse, a Madison County resident with a career in recreation services might be able to help with simplifying the department’s guidelines for citizens.

EMS PENSION FUNDS

Higdon spoke to commissioners about adopting a plan suggested by the Association County Commissioners of Georgia for pension services for EMS workers. Higdon said the plan does not cost the county anything, but EMS workers would contribute four-percent of their salaries and be eligible for retirement after 20 years. And the plan would give retroactive credit to county EMS employees for their years on the job. The pension plan is suggested as a way to help with EMS employee retention and recruitment in the county.

WATER IN SHILOH

Commissioners heard from Shiloh Volunteer Fire Department Chief Butch McDuffie, who asked the group to consider improving county water flow in the north central part of the county. He noted that the Shiloh department serves 30-square miles and has just 30 hydrants along Hwy. 29. Most of the area does not have water services. He said that with stimulus money being available, it may be a good time to look at expanding water services in the Shiloh area, which would help with fire protection and homeowners’ insurance payments.

Hull Mayor Paul Walton also approached commissioners Monday and asked for clarification on excise tax collections on alcohol. The City of Hull is now receiving those taxes, and he wanted to make sure the city is in line with county guidelines.

HIRING PROCEDURES

County commissioners agreed to move forward with hiring two employees at the road department. The board also discussed giving hiring authority back to the BOC chairman on all positions that aren’t a department head or assistant head. The district commissioners seemed to favor this move, which will need to be approved at an upcoming meeting. Last fall, the board voted to take over hiring and firing responsibilities for the county, but members say they feel the chairman handles the day-to-day operations of the county and should be able to work with department heads to hire employees. The board also postponed a decision on a recreation department assistant director.

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