In addition to naming debt reduction as its first priority during a Sept. 19 retreat, the Liberty County Development Authority also discussed strategies for handling the stagnant $10 million water-reclamation facility.
The board prioritized solutions as considering a joint venture with Midway to get the system online, selling to another party or, if neither materializes, doing something on its own, according to LCDA CEO Ron Tolley.
Liberty County Chairman John McIver brought up discussion of the Laurel View Water Reclamation Facility, which stalled with the economic downturn.
The authority built the facility to accommodate industrial prospects at Tradeport East Business Park and to projected private developments in nearby areas.
“We’ve got an investment there already; we’ve got an operational building that we’re having to maintain and pay utilities on,” McIver said at the retreat.
“We’ve got pipes in the ground,” Chairman Allen Brown added, noting that he would like to see an inventory of what elements of the system the authority has, what the debt is, and how they could either complete or sell the system.
Last year, Brown acknowledged that the project was stalled and was awaiting a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit.
The LCDA now holds a permit that allows a discharge up to 100,000 gallons each day, LCDA Director of Finance and Administration Carmen Cole said.
The group also operates a water service and hold a permit that allows it to pull a combined 1.4 million gallons of water from two wells, one in the Miocene aquifer and another in the Upper Floridan aquifer, Cole said.
“That’s not a workable situation and will not be a workable situation; we’re going to have to abandon that … as far as I’m concerned, that $10 million that we have is a waste,” member Paul Krebs said. “We are going to have a problem because we’ve got the problem in Midway.”
Krebs said the best solution is to partner with Midway for water and sewer service. He explained that there is an issue with water delivery because of the capacity and location of the storage tank and that the sewer system is not usable.
The issue is complicated, however, by an ongoing dispute between the development authority and city of Midway over fees owed by both entities for their respective water and sewer services. The group pushed conversation on that topic to executive session on recommendation from attorney Kelly Davis.
Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas suggested selling the system to a third-party utility company similar to the Tennessee Valley Authority or CH2M Hill.
“There are entities that are willing to buy, because they wanted to take over and run the city’s water plant; these are large entities that I contacted at the U.S. Conference of Mayors in June and January. Since this is a quasi-governmental or governmental entity, they may be interested in taking that thing over,” Thomas said.
Such companies build systems at their own expense and recoup money through usage fees, while the government gets to keep a cut, Thomas said.
Board members agreed that despite the incomplete system construction, the permits the authority holds have added value to a prospective buyer.
In the interest of making progress, the board asked P.C. Simonton engineer Marcus Sack to help with the system inventory and to help identify ways to move forward. They established a 160-day timeline to have some answers.