Brown: Following rules on the dam
I read the letter from Mr. Charles Phillis on July 16 regarding his claims that the situation concerning the spillway and the dam at Lake Peachtree are being mismanaged.
Mr. Phillis referred the situation as an “overreaction to standard maintenance problems” from the county government.
First of all, the city of Peachtree City called in engineering consultants as owners of the dam, not the county, and upon reading the findings took the issue up with state agency that oversees such matters. That was the right thing to do.
The state shared the city of Peachtree City’s concerns and ordered that the lake not be refilled. In addition, the state classified the Lake Peachtree structure as a “category I” which means the city’s lake is now held to a higher standard, including the spillway and the dam.
In a joint press release sent recently, both the city and the county agreed that an appeal of the category I designation from the state was a good idea. The city of Peachtree City is currently having the proper analysis performed to provide the data to the state to challenge the new classification.
I would suggest that Mr. Phillis have a conversation with the state officials who oversee dams and water reservoirs as they are in total control of the situation. For our part, the county and the city are following the state and federal procedures on the appeals process for the classification and dredging process.
Please keep in mind that the dam and spillway are approaching 50 years in age and we all need to focus on working together and doing things right.
Refilling the lake as Mr. Phillis suggests would put us at odds with the state oversight agency and neither the city nor the county wants to put that burden on the taxpayers.
Mr. Phillis also had a problem with the way the county is addressing aging corrugated metal pipe and dams in our stormwater system.
Mr. Phillis stated citizens who attended our stormwater town hall meetings “said basically the same thing: ‘We have already paid to have these problems repaired and do not wish to pay again to repair something that has already been fixed.’” He then went on to say, “[County Administrator Steve] Rapson and [Chairman Steve] Brown ignored the people ...”
Any citizen in this county can go watch the video recording of the town hall meetings on our county website and clearly see that we did not ignore them, but, rather, we agreed with the complaining citizens.
As county officials new to running the county, both Mr. Rapson and I agreed that the county should have been putting funding away for the eventual replacement of the infrastructure. However, there was no funding available and previous administrations had even engaged in deficit spending. However, again, something still needed to be done about the aging infrastructure.
I also personally walked the property of every citizen who stated a problem and asked me to come view their site. Those visits were reported in the town hall meetings that Mr. Phillis attended.
I had warned local citizens that we have some dangerous situations with culverts and dams in the county. The state has warned us to either breach or repair several dams for which the county has responsibility or face the consequences. We are working on those dams now.
A big storm the night before one of our town hall meetings caused a large aging culvert under the entrance road of a local subdivision to collapse. That road was the only way in or out of the subdivision. I warned then and I tell you again now that such incidents will continue to happen if we do not get the funding to employ a more comprehensive culvert replacement strategy.
Mr. Phillis accused Mr. Rapson of using “scare tactics and threats.” I did an open records search of all correspondence between Mr. Phillis and Mr. Rapson and found the emails to be polite and professional with no signs of scare tactics or threats. These documents are available to the public through the County Clerk’s office.
Lastly, Mr. Phillis criticized the punitive actions taken against the Water System director related to the significant water issues we experienced in 2013. I offer no apologies for those actions and the new Water System director and new engineering contractor are taking care of business and achieving some of the highest water quality scores the county has ever seen under new federal and state regulations.
Peachtree City, Ga.
[Brown is chairman of the Fayette County Commission.]