Tempers flared and accusations were voiced at the joint Guyton/Ogeechee-Canoochee Riverkeeper public workshop held at the old Guyton school gymnasium on Monday evening.
About 100 people attended the first public meeting regarding a proposed wastewater treatment facility (WWTF) on 400 acres of land on Riverside Drive — a project that will cost the city $13.3 million through a Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority loan.
One-by-one concerned citizens and property owners such as Craig Barrow, Elizabeth Moore, Bill McClendon and Ruth Lee stood up to voice their opinions and questions to the city council and engineers. Frank Arden also addressed the council, urging them to work with the county to come up with a plan that would benefit everyone.
“It shouldn’t be ‘I’ or ‘you,’” said Arden. “It should be a ‘we.’”
Mayor Michael Garvin explained to Arden and the group that this has been “an ongoing project for a while. We’ve gone backwards and forwards with them.”
Concerns ranged from the proximity of the proposed plant to the Ogeechee River to the potential cost to the taxpayers if future development does not go as planned, from the possibility of contamination of groundwater to the “stink” of the facility if it’s in someone’s backyard.
“We’re not dealing with Chanel No. 5 and everybody understands that. It’s going to smell,” said Carl Hofstadter of Hofstadter and Associates.
However, he pointed out that it would only smell until it was treated.
About 10 citizens got up and walked out of the meeting frustrated with the responses they were getting from Hofstadter and the mayor.
“I’m not a politician; I’m just an engineer,” Hofstadter said in defense of statements and questions brought up.
Chandra Brown, executive director of the OCRK, outlined the overall proposal. According to Brown, OCRK’s role at this point is as facilitator — not for or necessarily against the plant. However, she did share her organization’s analysis with the group, outlining what they deemed to be the pros and cons of the project.
Hofstadter that about five years ago, the city started reaching its limit of 90,000 gallons per day of wastewater sent to Springfield. Because Springfield said they’d cut them off, Guyton city officials went to the county. However, said Hofstadter, the council rejected the county’s proposition because of “cost reasons” and their desire to avoid “getting into a similar situation” as they had with Springfield.
Note: Over the next few weeks, the Herald will be reporting on the more specific concerns and outlining the situation more in-depth.