An apparent solution to a thorny, years-old water and sewer dispute with the Liberty County Development Authority was on the Midway City Council agenda Monday, but agreement again eluded officials, as it has since at least 2005.
Mayor Dr. Clemontine Washington told council members, “You have seen this on your agenda in the past . . . how many times? But it is still not where it needs to be,” and recommended no approval.
Washington told the council she had spoken with Anthony Abbott, the attorney retained by Midway to handle the dispute, last week about a change needed in the agreement, but had heard nothing further. She did not specify the desired change.
Midway and the development authority have long disagreed about the water and sewer services that they share
The development authority has a water system serving its industrial park in Midway as well as water and wastewater service at its Tradeport East adjoining the city limits of Midway. When one entity had a breakdown or its system needed maintenance, the other would furnish the needed water or wastewater handling until service was restored.
The backup service provision generally worked well over the years, encouraged by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, which encourages or requires alternative service arrangements like the one between the LCDA and Midway.
Paying for the shared services is a different story. Varying ways of billings, including different units, assessments of penalties and different frequency of billings have been used at different times, stretching back into the mayoral administration of the Rev. J.C. Shipman which ended in 2005.
His successor, Mayor Don Emmons, met with the development authority and its officials frequently seeking a resolution. Some good faith payments were made between the two agencies but no general solution had been found when Midway Mayor Dr. Clemontine Washington took office in 2009.
Figures presented in 2009 showing that for its sewer usage, late fees, and impact fees from 2006 to 2011 the development authority owed Midway more than $2.5 million.
At the same time, Midway owed $52,857 to the LCDA including more than $30,333 for an altitude valve, the piece of equipment that permits sharing between the two systems. These figures were negotiated down—Midway agreed not to charge impact fees and no more million-dollar amounts are being cited.
Unless a special city council meeting is called this month it appears that the dispute will stretch into the administration of yet another Midway mayor. Mayor-elect Levern Clancy is scheduled to sworn in Dec. 29 along with the new and re-elected council members.
In other business: The council decided that starting Jan. 2 Midway’s employees will work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with an hour off for lunch. This is a change from a 30-minute lunch period. Washington said it was difficult for employees to purchase lunch and eat in 30 minutes.
The council decided that all work on the Midway Police Department’s Dodge Charger squad cars will be done at a dealership. Washington said some repairs and maintenance had been done by local businesses.
The council discussed the continuing drainage issue at 144 Medway Dr. where the city authorized a survey and city officials, engineers and others have inspected the area. A drainage swale on the site is too shallow and a large drainage ditch and fences encroaching on the drainage easement make it difficult to bring in equipment needed to correct the problem.
Ebrahim Nadji, engineering chief for the Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission, said one possibility would be to engage a specialist contractor who could overcome the site difficulties. Council members appeared concerned about the cost of that solution; Councilwoman Melice Gerace said maybe Liberty County could be asked to pay a share of the cost.
Washington said the Monday session was her last as mayor but that she would ask for continued attention to the four-year-old drainage problem. Last month Washington was elected to a four-year term as council member. She has served two terms as mayor and was not eligible for re-election.