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Sewage plan draws heavy critics
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Probably no member of the development authority literally believes that "George Washington will rise from his grave," or "Paul Revere will ride again," but this and other colorful expressions were part of a discussion of the LCDA's sewage treatment plant last week.
J. Allen Davis of CMJ Investments, a large landowner in Liberty County, said he believes the plant planned by the LCDA is too expensive, too large and not in the best interest of taxpayers.
Davis petitioned Superior Court Judge Jay Stewart not to validate the first of three $10 million LCDA bond issues for a SunTrust Bank loan. After his review, Stewart allowed the bond issue to go forward.
Davis has until Wednesday to file an appeal of Stewart's ruling.
Davis told the authority -- and other East Liberty stakeholders Laura and Meredith Devendorf, the Foram Group and Midway Mayor Don Emmons -- "I have gone out and done some research that has made me believe there is a better way to do this."
He said, "I agree with the authority that MBR is absolutely the right technology to use."
MBR means membrane bioreactor, a method of water reclamation that exceeds regulatory standards and is priced accordingly.
Davis presented a plan to downsize the wastewater plant and reorganize its financing. He said, "I believe the development authority can better make use of its property if it is not tied up in agreements with SunTrust."
Foram owns what is known as the Laurel View Tract, which is nearly 2,000 acres between the Medway River and LCDA's Tradeport East Business Park. Keith Colgan, Foram's chairman and CEO, who participated by teleconference, said, "We support him (Davis) 110 percent on this. I want to make that clear."
Davis outlined a plan for a downsized, $12.5 million treatment plant with a phase 1 capacity of 250,000 gallons daily.
The LCDA's proposal by CH2MHill has a cost ceiling of $30 million and a capacity of 1.6 million gallons.
Speaking of the LCDA plan, Davis said, "The demand is not there for that."
LCDA member Jeff Arnold replied, "I'm not going to concede that, based on the information we have from Midway and the Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission."
Colgan said, "I'm going to tell you right now the demand is not there."
This brought several comments that demand would be greater if Foram had followed through on its proposals to the LCDA.
Colgan said, "I couldn't get 78,000 (gallon commitment) from the authority, so I backed off."
Emmons then asked, "Are you going to sit back for another five or 19 years?"
"That's a chicken and egg question," Colgan said. "The market has changed. The world is different. You don't build a plant like that (design). You can't pay for that plant. A $30 million plant, you can't afford that. Everybody knows that."
Wayne Murphy of CH2MHill told the group, "It's up to the (LCDA) board to cut capital costs."
A meeting is scheduled for Aug. 6 for CH2MHill to present various options on costs, capacity and scheduling, and for the authority to make a selection.
One remaining problem is that LCDA has no place secured to discharge water from the plant. Negotiations to acquire property or an easement to the Medway River have been unsuccessful, even though the possibility of eminent domain has been quietly mentioned.
Regulations would make it impossible or extremely difficult to discharge the water onto wetlands. It was another option -- discharge along the former Old Sunbury Road -- that brought the allusions to Colonial history.
The authority determined that the most feasible location for the enormous Target warehouse was squarely astride the historic roadway, which was eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
The LCDA had a $2 million federal grant for park infrastructure, but a special condition of the grant required protection or mitigation for the destruction of the Old Sunbury Road and the endangerment of two archeological sites.
Required annual reports on the historic work were filed several years late and there were similar procedural problems, but the authority eventually satisfied all the special conditions and received the grant money.
Criticism from local history buffs of the Sunbury Road action apparently moved Arnold to exclaim, "I would expect George Washington to rise from his grave if we touch the Sunbury Road... and Paul Revere would ride again."
County Commission Chairman John McIver, who arrived slightly late having come directly from the commission meeting, said, "You (stakeholders) have all been fully aware of what we were doing since day one."
"I am appalled that we have to go through this with our three largest stakeholders at this stage of the work," he said.
Golan said, "The numbers don't work, John," and Davis added, "No one knows where the bottom (of the economic downturn) is."
State Rep. Al Williams (D-Midway), an authority member also participating by telephone, said, "I've watched the Foram group hold the land during the best of times."
McIver said, "I've been in Liberty County all my life. I don't intend to get run out of Liberty County."

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