Council broaches controversial subject; closed school’s future discussed
One of the topics on the agenda at the Tyrone Town Council’s annual retreat on March 6 was a discussion about the possible expansion and extension of the town’s limited sewer system.
Councilman Ken Matthews had requested the item be included on the agenda. Asked about its inclusion, Matthews said his reference was to the downtown corridor area as a way of helping stimulate business growth. Matthews also noted that some septic systems in the area were failing or had failed.
Matthews questioned whether expanding sewer to the downtown corridor for both current and future businesses was feasible and what cost would be involved.
Mayor Eric Dial entered the conversation, questioning if the installation of sewer at the former Tyrone Elementary School might make the vacant school more attractive to a potential buyer.
Councilwoman Gloria Furr weighed in, asking who would pay for the sewer installation in the downtown corridor and questioning which business septics were failing. Matthews responded, saying the septic system at the fire station had failed.
“I don’t see running anymore sewer for the taxpayers to have to pay for, at least until we see what the economy will do,” Furr said. “We offered to pay for the sewer to the school and (the Fayette County Board of Education) declined. I think we need to leave it just like it is. It’s the school system’s problem.”
The discussion continued, with several people mentioning that the school’s septic system was in working order.
Referencing the school’s septic system at a meeting of the school board in May 2012, Facilities Director Mike Satterfield said Tyrone Elementary had been running on half a septic system for more than a decade and that the system would eventually fail.
The two options at that point would be to acquire adjacent land to install another septic system or tie onto the the town’s limited sewer system, said Satterfield. The purchase of additional land would be required because the school property is not large enough to handle the required system.
Dial during the discussion said the school system is likely to want to sell the school rather than lease it.
If that is the case, it could generate a negative perception on the part of the potential buyer as it relates to the purchase of a new septic system, assuming that sufficient property could be purchased on which to install the drain fields, or the need to secure a tie-in to the sewer system if such a choice was possible.
“Perception is reality,” said Councilman Ryan Housley, with Matthews questioning how the council should plan for the future and with Dial asking if the council should wait and essentially see what happens.
“We either change the perception or change the reality,” Dial said, adding that there is no obvious way to change the perception. “We need to decide for the future what we want downtown. If we’re satisfied with the way it is then we maintain the status quo. If not, what are the options to be considered? I’m not offering a solution. I’m just trying to get (the topic) on the table.”
Furr during the discussion reiterated the position that the advent of a sewer expansion could easily lead to the approval of higher density residential properties.
Housley asked if there might be a middle ground in the conversation. But there was no middle ground position offered, at least for now.
It was at that point that the discussion continued for a brief time then ended.
Addressing issues relating to the present, it was suggested by staff that council at an upcoming meeting review the status of the current sewer capacity available from Fairburn. The council agreed.
Another topic likely to be discussed at a future meeting will be the potential for having the sewer system hooked up to Peachtree City rather than the continuing current hook-up with Fairburn.
Discussions on sewer in Tyrone, at least in the past few years, have been relatively few in number. It was a couple of election cycles ago that the mayor and council who swept into office won election in no small part due to their support for minimum one-acre residential lots, limited commercial and industrial development and no additional sewer.
Yet today, the great majority of Tyrone’s retail businesses exist along the Ga. Highway 74 corridor where the town’s limited sewer connection to Fulton County exists.
While perhaps unknown to some, the reason cities always desire to have commercial and industrial businesses is simple — it boils down to revenue versus expenses. The longstanding formula shows that residences use three dollars of municipal services, such police and fire, for every one dollar of property tax paid. Businesses, on the other hand, use only one dollar of those services for every three dollars of property taxes paid.