“If it’s not funded properly, then it can’t be environmentally sound.” – Craig Barrow, adjacent landowner to the proposed site.
“This needs to be on the record, that this man right here said that on any day he would drink this water and that the day that he won’t (drink it), he’ll shut the plant down.” – An unidentified angry citizen referring to Carl Hofstadter.
“I may put a little scotch in it, but I will drink it,” said city engineer Carl Hofstadter of Hofstadter and Associates.
“I haven’t seen one sewage plant that hasn’t seen at least one to two incidents of raw sewage spillage.” – An unidentified resident.
“He wants to pollute our river, and then go home,” said Freddie Rollins, adjacent landowner to the proposed site. “This thing here is absolutely not right. It’s not going to work if you put it there.”
“I’m going to have the water tested. If you don’t keep your junk on your side of the river … I’m going to file suit.” – A citizen who lives on the other side of the Ogeechee River across from the proposed site.
“Effingham County doesn’t need four wastewater treatment plants. That’s probably two too many.” - Wade McDonald
“City of Guyton, where’s the logic? That’s all we’re asking.” – Wade McDonald
About 100 angry citizens lined up in Guyton’s old school gymnasium on Tuesday night to voice their opposition to the city’s plans to build a wastewater treatment facility on Riverside Drive.
Carl Hofstadter of Hofstadter and Associates, the city’s hired engineering firm, led the public meeting, inviting residents to come forward to speak out either for or against the plant.
“Anybody who wants to come up, can come up, sign your name and state your thoughts,” Hofstadter announced.
One-by-one they came forward to address one of the most controversial issues to face the city. Threats of lawsuits-to-come echoed several times throughout the evening, eliciting applause from the residents who attended.
But it was a citizen of Guyton who stood up and put the council on notice:
“If they don’t put this thing on a shelf, I will start a recall petition on the fifth of January,” warned Bill Summerlin.
Mayor Michael Garvin and city aldermen sat in silence throughout the meeting, despite the request of many of the citizens to address their concerns.
The city plans to build a 500,000 gallons-per-day wastewater treatment facility and to install a sprayfield on two pieces of property along Riverside Drive. The Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority approved a $13.35 million loan to pay for the project. Although Hofstadter said the city only needs five to 10 acres for the plant and 75-85 acres for the sprayfield, the city purchased close to 650 acres of land. The Federal Emergency Management Agency stated most of it is in the 100-year flood plain.
Since the city held a joint meeting with the Ogeechee-Canoochee Riverkeeper back in June, citizens have been speaking out against it. Environmental and fiscal issues top their concerns.
“We can’t afford this,” was repeated by several of the citizens who attended Tuesday’s meeting.
Ruth Lee said she knows as “a personal fact” that a developer had offered to pay $3.5 million to lay the pipe if the city connected with the Effingham County plant. She said the developer would be reimbursed through tap fees as future development occurred.
“(The city) told them, ‘No, we don’t want that. We want our own treatment plant,’” Lee said.
After the meeting, Alderman Les Pevey disputed Lee’s claims.
“That’s not what happened,” he said.
Hofstadter told the group that the city was trying to keep the cost down to $8 million. He also explained that they had decided to hold off on the sprayfields until the city could afford to install them at a later date.
In the meantime, the state’s Environmental Protection Division approved a wasteload allocation for the city to discharge into the Ogeechee River. Yet, Hofstadter said, they didn’t know how long that they would be doing a direct discharge – it could be years.
Many of the citizens also voiced their frustration that no one from EPD attended the meeting.
Hofstadter explained that EPD would receive their comments if they signed the sheet.
OCRK Executive Director Chandra Brown expressed her concern about the methodology Hofstadter’s contractor used in determining whether the properties were in the flood plain. She also offered city council the OCRK’s help.
“We are willing to help you get out of this,” she said. “We will help you find a conservationist buyer.”
Effingham County Commissioner Hubert Sapp also attended the meeting, speaking out against Guyton’s plans.
“My 14-year-old granddaughter thought it was more important for me to be here than to be at her concert,” he said.
He also pointed out that he was there not as a commissioner but as a concerned citizen. He urged city council to work with the county.
After the meeting, Sapp and Mayor Michael Garvin discussed the possibility of opening up talks with the county again. Hofstadter also pointed out that talks with Springfield also were ongoing.
Both the mayor and Aldermen Pevey and Jeff Lariscy said they felt the meeting went well and that the people were heard. Lariscy said that many of the citizen’s concerns and alternatives were ideas that council had considered. He also said that he didn’t feel that moving forward with building a facility was the best alternative.
Instead, he said, “going with the county, if it’s feasible for the city,” would be the best alternative.
Once Hofstadter submits the minutes of the meeting and the public’s comments to the state EPD, they will review the environmental information document and design development report.
In the meantime, the city plans to move forward while also seeking other alternatives.
Whoever offers us a better deal for a better price is who we will go with,” said Garvin. “But we have to move forward because we are under an EPD issue.”