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EPD Violations Take Center Stage

During last week’s work session and regular meeting of the Hazlehurst City Council, a recent Notice of Violation (NOV) from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Environmental Protection Division Coastal Division took center stage for both meetings and also for a subsequently called meeting for this past Monday.
The NOV, said Ward Three Councilman Eric Griffin during the work session, contained a number of safety violations on the Gill Street, Baxley Highway, and Odom Street water systems as well as the wastewater treatment plant and other infrastructure locations throughout the city.
“These things need to be fixed,” said Griffin. “These violations have been the same as the last three visits that we have had [from the EPD]. We just need to comply with what we’ve got, fix what we have to fix, and move on.”
Ward Two Councilman John Ramay added some things need to be “fixed urgently.”
Among the items that the EPD found, said Mayor Bayne Stone, were that chemicals were being infiltrated into the water system, “piles of garbage” on the floor of the treatment plant, and that the treatment plant needs new air lines and diffusers.
“It’s a mess,” said Stone, “and I’m embarrassed for myself that I have been negligent in looking at it.”
During Thursday’s regular meeting, Griffin stated that Environmental Compliance Specialist Bill Hawthorne of the EPD would be in Hazlehurst on Monday (this past Monday) to discuss the violations.
Griffin also presented the council with several expensive options to remedy the violations at a minimum of $167,152 to a maximum of $177,534.
“We have to have an action plan in place,” Griffin reminded the council. “This is a project that needs to be completed. It needs to get done. We don’t need to sit here and wait and hope and pray someone is going to come in here and fix it for us. It’s not going to happen.”
With the meeting with Hawthorne set for Monday, the council, in other action ….
…. approved a mission statement for the City of Hazlehurst compiled by City Clerk Vernice Thompson. The mission statement reads in its entirety: “To serve the public efficiently; to improve the quality of life; to deliver superior service, while embracing our citizens with a safe environment. We are: (H)elpful; (A)mbitious; (Z)ealous; (L)oving; (E)fficient; (H)ospitable; (U)nderstanding; (R)eliable; (S)afe; (T)imely. We are Hazlehurst.
…. heard the “Be the Light” and “Seven Mindset Program” presentation by Jeff Davis Elementary School Counselor Roxie Crosby and several JDES students. Crosby proclaimed the students are “doing a wonderful job” in instilling a “bright future” for Hazlehurst.
…. at the request of Ward One Councilman Dywane Johnson, extended a welcome and congratulatory letter to Bishop Dr. Martha J. Thomas for work she has done and is doing in Hazlehurst.
…. discussed at length updating the cemetery ordinances to include smaller lots for cremated remains and issues with coping. Stone promised that the council would “spend some time” to work on the issues since ordinances have not been followed or enforced.
…. agreed to purchase a full-page advertisement in the newest issue of Jeff Davis Living magazine at a discounted rate of $950.
…. discussed but made no formal commitments to attending the Georgia Municipal Association’s District Nine spring meeting April 11 at Cedar Lane Supper Club in McRae.
…. approved myriad training schedules and tentatively approved others for Fire Chief Charles Wasdin and members of the Hazlehurst Fire Department.
…. agreed for Stone to attend as designee for Jeff Davis County to the regional T-SPLOST kickoff meeting on April 11, contingent on approval from the City of Denton.
…. voted to approve February’s water and sewer adjustments, departmental reports, and check register.
…. in Citizens Comments, heard from Christopher Jones, who asked the council several questions about local government, with City Attorney Ken W. Smith answering most of those questions.
…. also in Citizens Comments, Thompson reminded the mayor and council to participate in the annual Farm Bureau City-Farm Day Festival at Jeff Davis Fairgrounds, and she also reminded them of the Smoke and Jazz Festival to be held in April at Oak Hill Plantation.
…. in Mayor and Comments section, passed a motion for Stone begin the documentation necessary to have the runway and apron at Hazlehurst Municipal Airport repaved and repaired.
…. after going into closed session, returned with Smith agreeing to proceed with drafting a letter to Republic Services on undisclosed matters discussed during the session.

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