Construction near the railroad tracks on E.G. Miles Parkway has been ongoing for some time, often causing drivers to rubber-neck to see what’s going on.
Gregg Higgins, CH2MHILL/OMI director, took time Thursday to show the new public works facilities residents have wondered about.
“We’ve been wanting to do an open house but haven’t been able to schedule anything,” Higgins said, pointing to the front building that looks like a home or a visitor’s center. “That building closest to the road is an administrative building.”
Across the expanded driveway and behind a tall, chain-link fence is the rest of the OMI complex, which stretches 300 feet. Higgins entered the operations center on the far right end.
“This is building is primarily where our department managers and supervisors maintain their offices,” he said, listing departments that included parks and grounds, sanitation, water treatment, meter readers and others.
He pointed to a row of desktops along one wall, where employees can log in data from work orders or check employee records.
Rob Norby, manager for the water and underground utilities department, continued the tour into the water lab. Responsible for Hinesville and Fort Stewart treatment plants, Norby said he has three supervisors working for him.
Guy Berg, who serves as water lab supervisor and treatment operator, demonstrated how he tests 45 water samples for contamination each month. A “standard” bottle contaminated with known bacteria was compared to a test sample.
Berg said the state inspects their facilities every month, but OMI has an internal audit system that’s more stringent.
“The state will send us a sample for us to test, and we have to identify the possible contamination,” he said. “We always get 100 percent.”
Norby said customers sometimes complain of a rotten-egg smell in their water, usually when a residence has been vacant. Berg said the aquifers in South Georgia naturally contain a high level of sulfide, which is the source of the odor. Part of the city’s water treatment includes chlorination, which Norby said removes the sulfide. When a water heater sits for a long time, the chlorine can “burn off,” allowing the sulfide smell to return, he said.
Probably the section that passers-by notice most is the vehicle maintenance section, which has five bays.
“We service dump trucks, garbage trucks, police cars — every vehicle used by the city,” Higgins said as he demonstrated how technicians use software to follow maintenance schedules and prioritize repairs. “We can replace and balance tires, but we contract out tire alignment because it’s just more economical to do that than to buy the equipment.”
At the far end of the complex is a gigantic covered shelter where Higgins said larger trucks and generators are maintained and cleaned.
“We used to work in the dirt,” Norby said as he waved his hand at the paved 5-acre complex. “One thing I remember most about the old facility is the constant dust.”
Calling the old facility a “tin shanty,” Higgins agreed. He said the new complex allows his employees to work in better, safer conditions and to better serve their customers.