Valdosta Daily Times

March 8, 2013

City officials praise plant shutdown

Say Times’ criticism of spill unfounded

Jason Schaefer
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Reports by Utilities Director Henry Hicks and comments from council and citizens took up most of the time at the Valdosta City Council meeting Thursday.

Following a run-down of the four action items that appeared on the agenda, which were all unanimously approved, Hicks took center stage at the podium to deliver the particulars on the City’s history of fighting problems at the Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant since 2009.

Hicks also offered to the Council details about this year’s flooding event that resulted in the spill of raw sewage into the Withlacoochee River and the cleanup and restoration efforts currently underway.

Hicks delivered a report on the sampling of areas of the river where significant spills occurred, which shows the dissolved oxygen, pH, temperature and the amount of fecal coliform in the water during the event and seven days after.

He reminded the Council that the trillions of gallons of stormwater in the flood heavily diluted the estimated 15 million gallons of raw sewage that spilled during the flood, saying more than 99.9 percent of the water in the Withlacoochee during the weather event was from rainfall, not from sewage.

At the conclusion of the report, Hicks received applause for his efforts in responding to the disaster, and Council Members Tim Carroll, Sonny Vickers and Deidra White also congratulated him, in agreement that taking the WWTP offline was "a wise decision."

Councilman Robert Yost took five minutes to question the validity of stories printed by The Valdosta Daily Times on the weather event, and criticized the editorial staff for its negative opinion of the City's reaction to the flood and the spill.

During the Citizens to be Heard portion of the meeting, several citizens came forward to speak out against the hiring of new Valdosta City Schools Superintendent Marty Roesch and new Valdosta Police Chief Brian Childress, saying that the black community was misrepresented in these personnel decisions.

Rev. Floyd Rose took the podium to speak on behalf of the black community to claim inequality in city government. He spoke until his allowed time ended, and was escorted out of the meeting by Childress when he refused to step down from the podium.

The Council unanimously approved:

• the rezoning of .5 acres at 411 West Mary Street from Single-Family Residential to Multi-Family Residential for the development of Phase 3 expansion of the Brooks Trace apartment complex.

• a request to approve the 2014 Southern Hospitality Group Workcamp Agreement at a cost of $9,500 from the general fund, matched with $9,500 by the Lowe's Distribution Center of Valdosta. The Southern Hospitality Workcamp is a minor homeowner repair program that has helped repair 255 owner-occupied homes in the Designated Revitalization Area.

• a request to approve the Community Development Block Grant Fiscal Year 2013 Annual Action Plan, which outlines the City's proposed use of funds allocated under the CDBG program.

• a low bid for the Georgia Department of Transportation Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant Program for street resurfacing in the amount of $408,706.66. Funds from the sixth cycle of the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax will be used to pay the amount over the GDOT commitment level.