Sunday, April 26, 2015

Oconee County Commissioners To Get An Update On Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir Project

Follows Decision On Treatment Plant

The Oconee County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday night is scheduled to get an update on the Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir from Project Manager Jimmy Parker.

The meeting will follow by one week the first concrete decision by the Management Board for the reservoir project to move forward with plans for design work on the water treatment plant.

Construction of the dam for the reservoir, in southeastern Walton County, is nearing completion, and the reservoir itself is expected to be at pool in 2017.

Oconee County and Walton County are partners in the project, and Parker is expected to update the full Oconee County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday on construction progress and future plans for the reservoir.

Among other items on the BOC agenda for Tuesday night is a revision of the Oconee County’s Water and Wastewater Systems Ordinance.

Follow To March Meeting

At its meeting last month, the Management Board had requested that Parker come back with a plan for how to move forward with design work for the water treatment plant.

The Board acknowledged that neither county needs the water from the reservoir at present, but Board members, and Parker, said it was important to be prepared in case an industrial user comes along demanding large amounts of water from either county.

Parker repeated that warning again at the meeting on Tuesday.

He said the goal was to proceed with some level of preliminary design “so that, should some catalyst such as a large industry locating in either county dictate that the project be accelerated or that production of water be accelerated it would put both counties in a lot more strategic position.”

No Rush

Parker acknowledged there is “no rush” in making a decision on design because the counties don’t need the water at present, but he said the slower pace would allow the counties to make good decisions on treatment technologies and location of plant components.

What he proposed, and what the Board approved, was appointment of a procurement committee to obtain the design services needed. His request and the Board action in response is shown in the video below.

OCO: Parker on Procurement Committee from Lee Becker on Vimeo

The procurement committee will consists of Kevin Little, Walton County Commission Chairman, Jim Luke, Oconee County Commissioner, and Brad Johnson, chairman of the Walton County Water and Sewer Authority.

The initial design work will focus on the water treatment plant itself and include process flow diagrams, sketches of building floor plans, and construction cost estimates.

Costs From Contingency Funds

Parker estimated the costs of the design work to be about $625,000 and the work itself to take six to eight months.

The costs would be covered by a reallocation of contingency funds, Parker said.

Earlier in the meeting Parker had presented a projection of overall costs for the projects showing it to be about $6.8 million under budget at this stage, reflecting significantly lower than expected land acquisition costs as well as other savings.

The Board did vote to spend an additional $140,000 for unbudgeted services by Schnabel Engineering because of construction delays by Layne Heavy Civil Inc., which has the $17.8 million contract for construction of the dam and reservoir.

This new allocation was on top of the $410,000 added to the Schnable contract in December of last year. The initial contract with Schnabel had been for $923,000, so the total fee after Tuesday’s vote will be $1,473,000.

Top Of Agenda

Parker’s visit to the Oconee County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday will be at the front of the meeting, which starts at 7 p.m. at the Courthouse in Watkinsville.

Chris Thomas, director of the Oconee County Utility Department, is scheduled to present the updates to the Water and Wastewater Systems Ordinance in their official first reading. The second and final reading will be on May 5.

The 89-page document contains mostly minor changes, but Thomas singled out two of significance when he appeared before the Board on March 31.

The new ordinance specifies that a sewer connection fee is required of each metered customer before the connection is made. That fee is nonrefundable.

The county refunded a fee earlier this year because of ambiguities about when connection fees were collected.

Septic Failures

Thomas told the Board last month that he anticipates increasing problems with failed septic systems in the county as subdivisions age.

As of February 28, the county had only 2,034 sewer customers, with many of those being commercial. The majority of home owners rely on a septic system.

The ordinance to be considered Tuesday night states that “Any septic tank, privy or any other private sewage, industrial waste or liquid waste disposal system located on any premises that does not function in a sanitary manner shall be made to function in a safe and sanitary manner.”

The owner is required to submit a corrective plan for a failing system with 48 hours and must make the system “operationally safe” within 30 days.

“Failure to reasonably comply with remediation in a timely manner may result in other enforcement proceedings as determined suitable to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the county,” according to the proposed ordinance.

Video Recording

I was unable to attend the meeting last week of the Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir Management Board at the old Walton County Courthouse in Monroe.

Sarah Bell did attend and made the video recording from which the video clip above was taken.

The next meeting of the Management Board is scheduled for May 19 at the Courthouse in Monroe.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Caterpillar Told Athens-Clarke County And Oconee County Authorities It Had 658 Full-Time Jobs During Average Month In 2014

Increase From 2013

The number of full-time jobs at the Caterpillar plant on the Athens-Clarke County and Oconee County line during the average month in 2014 was 658, up from a monthly average of 214 a year ago.

A total number of 932 full-time jobs were created at the facility by the end of 2014, or 568 more than the 364 that had been created by the end of 2013, the first year of operation of the plant.

The most common type of job at the plant has been product assembler, with 197 of the 932 jobs created by the end of 2014 so classified. A year ago only 40 of the jobs that had been created were classified as product assembler.

These jobs data come from the 2014 annual report Caterpillar is obligated to file with the Development Authority of the Unified Government of Athens-Clarke County and with the Oconee County Industrial Development Authority.

As part of the memorandum of understanding the two authorities signed with Caterpillar in 2012, the company must provide annually a community jobs report and a community investment report.

Sequel To January Report

The Oconee County Industrial Development Authority filed a report with OneGeorgia Authority on Jan. 29 of this year that included preliminary data from Caterpillar on jobs created and on both public and private investment.

OneGeorgia Authority, a unit of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, is the state agency that is overseeing the project. It joined with the two counties in the effort to entice Caterpillar to relocate its Japanese assembly plant in the state.

In that earlier report, Rick Waller, chair of the Oconee County IDA, reported the Caterpillar figure of 932 jobs created. That document provided no data on the types of jobs at the assembly plant.

Waller reported that the two counties had spent $19,686,382 on infrastructure improvements for Caterpillar, including on transportation, water and wastewater infrastructure.

Oconee County sold bonds in February of 2012 to borrow $10.4 million for the Caterpillar project expenses and will begin making payments against the principal in the upcoming fiscal year.

No Shortfalls

Caterpillar told the two IDAs in the March 24 report that the 932 jobs it created exceeded the 250 it promised to have created by the end of year 2 (2014) as specified in the Memo of Understanding.

It also said that the $129,915,518 it invested in the project exceeded the goal in the MOU of $100,000,000.

These goals are spelled out in the Community Goals Table of the MOU and are as stated by Caterpillar in the report to the counties.

That MOU states that Caterpillar will have created 1,100 jobs by 2032 and have spent $195,000,000.

Job Types

Caterpillar classified 161 of the 932 jobs it created as a type of welder in the 2014 report. That figure had been 53 a year earlier.

It classified 19 of the jobs as a type of engineer in 2014, up from the five out of the 364 jobs Caterpillar reported having created by the end of 2013.

In the 2014 report, 50 jobs were labeled as maintenance–third party. No maintenance jobs were reported as having been created by the end of 2013.

Caterpillar changed some of the job classifications between the two years. In 2013, it reported having created 60 contract service workers. In 2014–which includes the 2013 figures--it reported having created only 1 contract service worker.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Oconee County Administrative Officer Tells County Department Heads To Clear All Comments To The "Press" With Him First

Complaint By Williams

Oconee County Administrative Officer Jeff Benko has issued a directive to county department heads telling them not to make statements to “the press” without clearing those statements in advance with him.

The directive, sent out by email to the department heads at 5:03 p.m. on April 3, followed a 3:49 p.m. email on that date to Public Works Director Emil Beshara telling him to “refrain from discussing” issues “in the paper.”

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Construction Underway On Last Buildings In Core Of Oconee County’s Epps Bridge Centre

Latest Building Without Tenant

Construction is well underway on the last major buildings that makes up the core of Epps Bridge Centre, the shopping complex surrounded by Epps Bridge Parkway, SR Loop 10 and the Oconee Connector.

The Oconee County Code Enforcement Office issued a permit on March 27 for the shell of a 25,024-square-foot building that connects the building housing Marshalls with the building under construction that will be home to Party City and Bed, Bath & Beyond.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Oconee County Planning Commission Recommends Rezones for Presbyterian Homes of Georgia

100 Plus At Meeting

The Oconee County Planning Commission voted 7-3 tonight to send forward to the Board of Commissioners with a positive recommendation the rezone request of the Presbyterian Homes of Georgia for 70 acres on U.S. 441 and Wellbrook Road.

The Commission also voted--this time unanimously--to recommend rezone of 10 acres fronting on Wild Azalea Lane and U.S. 441 in a related request by Presbyterian Homes, which is seeking to build a continuing care retirement community on the 70-acre tract.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Jimmy Daniell Road Rezone Withdrawn, But Two Presbyterian Homes Rezones On Oconee County Planning Commission Agenda

Late Friday Request

The Oconee County Planning Commission agenda for tomorrow night got simpler on Friday when Oconee Medical Properties LLC withdrew its request for a rezone of five acres on Jimmy Daniell Road just north of the entrance to Silver Leaf subdivision.

Remaining on the agenda is the latest attempt by Presbyterian Homes of Georgia to obtain a rezone for a continuing care retirement community, this time on 70 acres with frontage on U.S. 441 and Wellbrook Road

Hard Labor Creek Board To Begin Discussion Of Design For Water Treatment Plant and Distribution System

For Future Industrial Users

The Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir Management Board on Tuesday is scheduled to begin discussion of preliminary design for the water treatment and water transmission facilities--the next stage in making the reservoir now filling in southeast Walton County something more than a pretty lake.

The Board will discuss cost estimates for obtaining a schematic design for the facility and for design development details. The estimated total cost of the work is $1.7 million.