After many discussions following my last letter to the editor on why we should avert a devastating outcome regarding Peachtree City’s excess sewage capacity, I realize there are citizens who do not understand the situation. That is understandable since the history of the subject dates back several decades.
For historical perspective, the sewer system was formerly under the private ownership of Georgia Utilities, whose investors’ interests mainly revolved around the sale of residential, commercial and industrial real estate. Sewer capacity gives the developer the ability build more dense subdivisions and large retail and industrial facilities.
Unfortunately, the sewer treatment facilities were heading into a state of disrepair and there were many desperately needed system-wide improvements that Georgia Utilities seemed unwilling to implement.
The development-friendly ownership of Georgia Utilities had close ties to City Hall and in 1996 a secret deal was contrived to sell the battered sewer system to the taxpayers of Peachtree City for a whopping price.
Citizen Publisher and Editor Cal Beverly described it this way in 2006: “The year-long saga involved lots of secret meetings, lots of criticism of the process by me in columns and editorials, ethics complaint filings, and an astonishing call by [Mayor Bob] Lenox during a public meeting for a criminal probe by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation into The Citizen newspapers’ owners, including me, to inquire into the paper’s news sources and reports of the backroom dealings. The GBI politely declined.”
Once that infamous deal was executed, the system was folded into the Peachtree City Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) (http://pcwasa.org) which is a publicly owned utility charged with the collection and treatment of public, commercial, and industrial wastewater within the city of Peachtree City and a few sites in the surrounding county.
WASA owns and operates the entire sewer system infrastructure located in Peachtree City.
Around the year 2000, WASA began the process of almost doubling the capacity of the sewer system to around 6 million gallons per day. Citizens, including Dennis Chase and me, began asking why such a large expansion was necessary.
WASA assured local taxpayers and sewer consumers that the expansion would cover the future growth of Peachtree City up to the point of build-out. Obviously, that promise was false and that bogus tale from WASA could now hurt every citizen of Fayette County.
Even worse, the local sewer consumers had to pay higher rates to cover the sewage treatment capacity expansion while the additional capacity goes unused.
Peachtree City backed the WASA maintenance and expansion bonds and included a provision in the agreement for the city government to have the right of refusal on running the sewer outside the city’s boundary. Unfortunately, that agreement expires soon.
Everyone is certain that WASA will sell their extensive over-capacity outside the city limits once they are released from the agreement. So what is the best case scenario?
The town of Tyrone is in need of a limited amount of sewage capacity. At least if the excess capacity is sold to Tyrone, the money helps Fayette County prosper with enterprises that generate tax revenue, county-wide SPLOST revenue, Fayette school taxes and such.
If WASA does not sell the excess sewage capacity to Tyrone, then it will eventually be sold in Coweta County. WASA needs the approval of the City Council in Peachtree City to execute the deal with Tyrone.
If the excess capacity is sold to Coweta or Senoia, our paid sewage infrastructure will be used to build up the competition, aid in bolstering their economy, increase their tax revenue and create more retail competition just across the border to run our smaller shopping centers out of business.
We know what is land-planned across the boundary line in Coweta: more shopping centers and a lot more residential units. If you think the traffic is bad now, just wait till Coweta has the sewer capacity to build everything they have planned.
The insult of Peachtree City residents paying for more facilities than was needed on based on false projections and then, once it is all paid off, WASA sells our capacity, the capacity we paid for, to developers across the border who did not pay a dime to eliminate the huge debt, is too painful to comprehend.
The Tyrone Town Council thinks they are “saving” $2 million by purchasing sewage capacity from Fulton County. However, the financial devastation on the back end will far surpass what they save on the front end.
Sending the excess sewage capacity to Coweta County will negatively affect everyone in Fayette County.
I have constantly reminded everyone throughout the years of three negative events that should they occur will cause us to encounter a rippling affect county-wide that begins the erosion of our quality of life on a large scale. Those three are the failure of the Fayette Pavilion shopping center, the construction of the TDK Extension into Coweta County and sending Peachtree City’s sewer capacity into Coweta County.
Sadly, the Fayette Pavilion is ailing and developer interests are secretly working on the TDK Extension and running the sewer to Coweta County.
We need to see Peachtree City and Tyrone working together. For the sake of Fayette County’s future, we need elected leadership able to see the big picture.
Steve Brown, Commissioner
Fayette County Board of Commissioners
Peachtree City, Ga.