Effingham County commissioners and Guyton City Council members agreed to forge ahead with talks on Guyton possibly tying into the county wastewater treatment plant.
Commissioners Vera Jones and Steve Mason will conduct talks with two council members in an effort to come up with an agreement that could make Guyton a user of the county’s sewer system.
“The county would like to work with Guyton,” said County Administrator David Crawley. “We feel there is an opportunity for both entities.”
Commissioners also wanted a gauge from Guyton council members on their willingness to continue discussions about a potential agreement.
“We’re here because we’re interested,” Mayor Michael Garvin said. “I think the first hurdle has been crossed.”
The three major components of a potential agreement include the purchase of capacity, the conveyance infrastructure to the county wastewater treatment plant and what kind of rate is charged.
“We want to help do whatever is best for the taxpayers,” said Commissioner Vera Jones. “Whatever we can do to help create that, that’s what we want to do.”
Effingham County’s wastewater treatment plant has a capacity of 1 million gallons per day and has the room to take in Guyton’s sewage, Crawley said. The issues of conveyance — how to get Guyton’s wastewater to the county treatment plant — is a more convoluted issue, Crawley added.
“There’s lot of different ways to look at that,” he said. “There’s lots of different routes.”
The county also wants to know if Guyton prefers being a user or if it chooses to be a partner in the treatment plant. Being a partner carries more liability, and city council members were cool to the idea. Council member Ulysses Eaton said there were concerns about the county’s loan with the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority and they wanted to find the language in any potential pact that would keep Guyton separate from the county’s GEFA loan obligations.
“As a citizen of Guyton and of Effingham County, the last thing I want to see is Effingham County struggle,” Eaton said.
Said Jones: “Some of the things we’re doing with service delivery are putting us in a much better position to handle the debt.”
The county’s wastewater treatment plant can be expanded up to 20 million gallons per day, and its next step in expansion is 2.5 million gallons per day. When the county and city last talked, more than a year ago, Guyton was using 80,000 gallons per day in Springfield’s 500,000 gallon per day capacity plant.
“We all know the county has capacity and needs users,” Mason said. “Guyton needs water and sewer capacity.”
Jones said there are developers in the Guyton area who need the water and sewer capacity to get projects moving.
“We need to get our economy moving forward,” she said. “I’m working as hard and as furiously as I know how on the county level. We have so much promise and potential, and we’re wasting it.
“We need to move forward aggressively together and make something happen. Partnering with us is a plus. We’re willing to do our part.”
Discussions, mostly in the forms of letters and contracts, have been going back and forth between the city and the county for a while. The service delivery strategy negotiations slowed that process.
“We have batted agreements back and forth,” Crawley said.
Garvin offered his frustration at the communication snags.
“We pretty much put in there everything, and it was pretty much rejected,” he said. “Setting up this meeting was the first thing we’ve heard back. There are some questions we want to get answers to.”
Proposals from the city were sent back with items marked up but not necessarily rejected, county engineer Steve Liotta said.
Crawley said there are significant differences in the proposals from the county and the city, but he also believed those could be worked out. The city may have concerns the county doesn’t understand, and the county may have points the city doesn’t understand, Crawley added.
“There needs to be some true negotiation,” he said.
Crawley added that talks between the county and Guyton during the service delivery negotiations went well and it seemed to help to have a deadline. Half of the board of commissioners have not been involved in previous discussions with Guyton about tying into the county’s system
Crawley suggested doing something similar to how the service delivery talks were conducted — in small groups, with a deadline.
“We are as committed to the citizens of Guyton as we are to the citizens of Effingham County,” Commissioner Phil Kieffer said.
Guyton has planned to build its own wastewater treatment plant on a large tract of land it purchased on Riverside Drive. The city was awarded a 20-year loan from GEFA for more than $13.3 million in 2008, and Guyton purchased more than 600 acres along Riverside Drive.
City council approved a bond issue of more than $9 million last month. The bonds will go toward the city’s water and sewer debt, Garvin said.
“And to have some money on hand to see what direction we’re going to go in, once we finalize those decisions,” he said.