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Fayette's stormwater problems not that bad, Chase says

Fayette County’s stormwater problems are neither that urgent nor that extensive, says retired biologist Dennis Chase, an occasional Citizen columnist and outspoken advocate for environmental issues.

That caution has been added to the conversation surrounding Fayette County’s proposed stormwater SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) that could face voter scrutiny in November.

Chase says the project needs have been significantly overstated.

That opinion was countered Monday by Fayette County Administrator Steve Rapson, who said an accurate evaluation of stormwater utility needs can only be performed by a professional engineer.

Chase contacted The Citizen, saying that in the past few weeks he accompanied Fayette County Water System Director Tony Parrott to look at stormwater problem sites located in north central Fayette. Chase said he selected 60 sites previously identified by county staff as being problem sites. The highest concentration of problem sites, those listed on the county map as poor or failing, was in north central Fayette, Chase said.

“We stopped at 60 locations which totaled 87 structures and 37 pipes of varying lengths. Most of them required the man-hole covers to be pulled and we then noted what was wrong, if we could. Of those 87 structures and 37 pipes, I saw five stormwater structures that needed immediate work and one pipe that needed work. Almost every other structure or pipe we looked needed only minor clean-outs or a bit of minor concrete repair,” Chase said.

“I will tell you that my opinion, based on visits to a few of the identified problem sites, is that no more than 10 percent of the stormwater structures and pipes need anything more than maintenance. The estimates for needed work have gone from $3 million to $5 million then to $10 million and at the town hall meetings it was $15 million. And now (Fayette County Commission Chairman) Steve Brown is trying to gather more than $20 million. There is no such need,” Chase added.

Rapson on Monday said said he respectfully disagreed with the conclusion Chase reached.

“I appreciate Dennis and I think he’s a professional, but he is not an engineer,” Rapson said.

Citing an example, Rapson said until it is determined why some pipes have standing water it is not possible to know the exposure or exact liability that exists.

“That’s why the county needs the analysis,” said Rapson. “I want a professional engineer’s opinion (about the problem areas) and how much it will cost so we can have a definitive cost estimate to take to the voters.”

Rapson said an Request for Proposal is being developed and the forthcoming analysis will be available at the end of June.

That definitive project list will include the 32 large projects that constitute the bulk of the projects associated with the SPLOST proposal, Rapson said.

Chase said that though he spent decades as a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a substantial portion of that time dealt with the effects that large projects such as dams and levees and the impact the maintenance of those structures has on the environment.

Chase in his conclusion said the idea of addressing the county’s stormwater needs involves developing a solid approach and a method of addressing the real problem areas.

“There may be a need for a fair amount of money but this is not the way to go about it.”



I really don't understand why the county and city officials dismiss the information Mr. Chase is providing after working decades for the state as a biologist. He makes some excellent points about maintenance being the critical factor issue regarding our stormwater problems.

Mr. Rapsons dismissal of Mr. Chase was quite amusing:

Rapson said until it is determined why some pipes have standing water it is not possible to know the exposure or exact liability that exists.

Mr. Rapson, if there is standing water, it means that the pipe is level when it should be sloped or there is a blockage. Now go spend thousands for an engineer to tell you the same. Perhaps you need to check with your own building inspectors who oversaw and approved the installation.

It will be very interesting to see the results of this RFP. The pipes, especially the large ones should have been inspected every year. Shame on past commissions for not providing the line item budget to inspect and maintain.

Mr. Chase, I for one, would like see you write an article on the matter. Explain if you feel a yearly maintenance line item is better than a temporary splost. Also let us know what us citizens, the cities in FC, and the county can do, so that we can have clean drinking water for years to come.

NUK_1's picture

He used to have a column in The Citizen and he managed to mangle his "scientific" views with a whole lot of strident political BS. He's managed to PO a lot of people with his mouth instead of trying to work with them for many years. While he seems more reasonable these days, some people have long memories.

Steve Rapson, of all people, has a long history of having to deal with Mr. Chase from the time Rapson worked with PTC or the FC BOE and now FC. I agree with Rapson on this one.

I have seen Mr. Chase's columns in the past and truthfully read them, but didn't pay too much attention.

2 yrs ago I was placed on a project that required me to take some additional environmental classes because I was going to be dealing with two municipalities in different states and had to know a little about stormwater. It gave me a different perspective and I was able to study how other municipalities deal with the clean water act and how important it is for everyone to become more aware of the this important resource.

That being said, I went back and researched some of his past articles and he makes many good points and is a great resource to have in our community.

Based on this article he seems to have mellowed and felt that the problem may not be as severe as we were being told. The tone of the article made Mr. Chase seem reasonable. Don't we all mellow with age?

I would like to see him write an article on the storm water issue as well as the recent problem with the water.

Citizen Bob's picture

The county needs long term funding to maintain infrastructure like culverts, dams, and drains.

Currently, we're faced with a significant backlog of neglect that accumulated over too many years to be remedied with existing annual revenues. I'm not talking about new projects, just returning existing infrastructure to a state of good repair. Mr. Chase's opinion of some project's priority is open for discussion, but even he's recognized an overall backlog.

The proposed 1c SPLOST, to take effect for 24 months, would catch us up on that neglected maintenance. Sustained maintenance for the long term would be funded through an annual county storm water fee beginning about four years from now.

It's impractical to fund the neglected improvements through fee money- the bill's simply too large for the amount of annual collections.

I lobbied for two years in opposition to the metro-wide T-SPLOST because it provided too little benefit for the 10-year's worth of taxes. I'm sure we'll find a few warts as project priorities are adjusted, but after examining this SPLOST and questioning the commissioners, the county administrator, and hearing Mr. Chase's position, I'm voting to approve this measure.

Bob Ross
Peachtree City

R.J. Ross

I was expecting your championing this tax due to your relationships with commission. Would you be so kind to approve this with your title in the FC Tea Party?

I don't disagree that the county needs to address our stormwater issues since this ends up in our water system.

However the facts remain, that I wonder how anyone can champion a cause without a complete stormwater plan in place. It makes no sense, because just like the T-Splost, there will be little benefit nor any way to evaluate it before the plan is in place.

How about we punt at this time. Allow the county to finalize the master plan. Develop a fee structure that everyone approves. Then come back with a splost proposal for an infusion of neglectful maintenance along with the fee structure when the splost expires?

Then we can discuss the proper methods, costs, and county responsibilities related to each individual item listed.

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