MARY ANN ANDERSON
During last Monday night’s work session of the Hazlehurst City Council, Mayor Bayne Stone and Stanley Sellers, who owns Yellow Jacket Car Wash at the intersection of North Williams Street and Highway 341, fell into a sometimes heated exchange over issues related to a 2016 drainage agreement signed by both the city and Sellers.
At the same time the drainage agreement was signed, Sellers had also signed a drainage and construction easement so the city could replace the old drain lines that were substantially on his property and continually caused problems for the entire block, including property of Ruby Hughes, H.A. Lynn Jr. of Omar’s Fast Foods, and Robert Wiggins Jr. of Pride Ventures.
Sellers had agreed in 2016 to assume ownership of the new lines but also agreed that the city would have responsibility of maintaining them.
In what can only be described as a tense atmosphere, Sellers told the council that the city didn’t uphold its agreement to replace or repair the asphalt and pavement after the new drainage system was installed at the property, which in turn caused additional drain issues for the car wash.
“The city didn’t do what it was supposed to do,” a visibly exasperated Sellers told the council.
With Stone insisting the new drainage system was installed properly, Sellers disagreed and told the council that the drain was “full of concrete” and was causing substantial water backup and other issues.
“I just need to know if you’re going to fix it, yes or no,” Sellers asked the council.
Ward Two Councilman John Ramay pointed out that Monday’s meeting was the work session and not the monthly regular meeting and asked that Sellers give them until the February meeting on Thursday night to “dig into it and see what the possibilities are.”
More sharp words and accusations flew before the discussion settled down, with Stone saying that he and others, including possibly some of the councilmembers and Carl Hofstadter of Hofstadter and Associates, the city’s engineer who designed the new drainage system, would go to the carwash to “come up with a compromise” of how to alleviate Sellers’s drainage problems.
The issue was back on the agenda for Thursday night’s meeting, and although Sellers was not there, Stone opened by stating, “First thing I need to say, and I’ll tell him personally when I do see him, is that I owe him an apology.”
Stone said that he and Dave Deats of Deats Excavation had, between the Monday and Thursday meetings, visited the carwash site with equipment to dig up the drain lines, and then found, among other problems, that they did have concrete in them that was impeding proper drainage.
“There were some things done at his business that I didn’t realize,” said Stone, adding that he and Deats were “shocked” at the condition in which he found the drains. And in admitting that he was, in his word, “wrong” in saying some of the things during the Monday meeting, he said that the city would have to handle the matter and immediately asked for a motion to “get the man some help” in regards to those drainage issues, adding that he estimated it would cost the city about $8,000 for repairs. With no further discussion, the motion passed unanimously.
In other action, the council ….
…. with Stone saying that the city has now “jumped through all the hoops” for construction to begin on the Georgia State Patrol station on Highway 341 South, authorized him to sign an intergovernmental agreement with the Georgia Department of Public Safety that lays out the timeline for construction, environmental factors, and other legalities.
…. adopted an amendment to a resolution that drops Spanish from the required Language Access Plan of Associates in Local Government Assistance in Alma for work related to a 2018 Community Development Block Grant.
…. tabled an agenda item that would have set new fees for rental of the Hazlehurst Civic Center at Twisted Pine Golf Course, a move that gave the council additional time to research the matter.
…. agreed to sign a proclamation for the city’s appreciation for Bishop Ida Robinson.
…. approved a host of training for city employees, including Police Chief Ken Williams to attend the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police “Police Chiefs/Heads of Law Enforcement Agencies Day” at Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta on March 14; Deputy City Clerk Lorrie Williams to attend Georgia Clerks Education Institute’s regional training event in Gainesville from March 13-14; Chief Williams and Police Officers John Lee and Chris Morrison to attend Section B of the Incident Response to Terrorist Bombings training at New Mexico Tech in Socorro from April 8-11; and Opie Hall, Carl Leggett, Chris McEachin, and Lorrie Williams to attend the spring conference of the Georgia Rural Water Association at Jekyll Island from May 7-9.
…. approved the minutes from September 2018, the most recent available, and okayed January’s water and sewer adjustments, departmental reports, and check registers.
During the Citizens Comments section of the meeting, Lorrie Williams told the council that the 2018 Consumer Confidence Report for the City of Hazlehurst has been completed well ahead of the June 30 deadline, adding that the report has also been posted on the City of Hazlehurst website (www.hazlehurstga.gov) for anyone who wants to read it.
In the Mayor and Councilmen’s Comments, Ward Four Councilman John Bloodworth reported that he had received a call from an unnamed constituent who wanted it on record that he was unhappy with the bright red color of the new garbage carts, a move that elicited good-natured laughter from the entire council.
Also in this section, Stone and Fire Chief Charles Wasdin briefly went over the terms of the recent $4.3 million low-interest loan and grant from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority that the city has received for upgrading water tanks and wells, a move that will increase flow capacity from 500 gallons a minute to more than 2,000 gallons a minute.
Stone pointed out that the upgrades will benefit city water customers and especially local industry, and then asked for a called joint meeting with the Jeff Davis County Commissioners for Wednesday, Feb. 27 at 10 a.m. to formally discuss an intergovernmental agreement between the city and county regarding the upgrades.
The next regularly scheduled meeting of the city council is Thursday, March 21, 2019, at 6 p.m. at City Hall.