November 4, 2015

Commission Passes Sewer Plan in Epic Fashion


As Athens-Clarke County commissioners took a preliminary vote on a 20-year, $240 million plan for water and sewer service Tuesday night, the main issue on their minds was how the plan will tackle the environmental hazard of aging and failing septic tanks in sensitive areas.

As complex an issue as this is, it wasn't nearly as complicated as the parliamentary equivalent of a Benny Hill chase scene that followed. Everyone in Athens now has asthma from the dumpster-fire pollution.

Here’s how it went down (illustrated with GIFs):

First Commissioner Kelly Girtz made a motion to approve the plan, with the exception that Public Utilities would be forbidden from proposing gravity sewer lines in the Sandy Creek—which supplies our drinking water—and Lower Shoal Creek basins. (Sewer mains generally run alongside rivers and creeks whenever possible because rivers and creeks flow downhill, negating the need to pump the sewage. But they can also break and spill.)

Commissioner Melissa Link made a motion to hold the plan for 60 days for further public scrutiny, later amended by Commissioner Jerry NeSmith to 30 days. That motion was voted down 4–6, with NeSmith, Link and commissioners Harry Sims and Jared Bailey voting in favor.

Then they went back to Girtz’s commission-defined option, which ended up in a 5–5 tie. (Girtz and commissioners Allison Wright, Andy Herod, Diane Bell and Mike Hamby were in favor.)

Mayor Nancy Denson wanted to break the tie in favor of the original staff proposal (approve the plan as-is). But that wasn’t on the table. So she voted “no.”

Sims made a motion to adopt the staff recommendation. That failed 2–8, with only he and Commissioner Sharyn Dickerson voting “yes.”

NeSmith motioned to reconsider Girtz’s commission-defined option. That passed unanimously. (YAY!)

But they still had to vote on the commission-defined option itself. Dickerson decided that the word “shall” is “too definitive,” and wanted it changed to… something. 

After much back and forth about what they were actually voting on and how, Girtz refused to amend his motion.

And the vote was… 10–0! THEY DID IT!

So many feels.

Oh yeah, and the commission also approved a slightly modified food truck ordinance and plans for the Southern Mill redevelopment.