The wait is over
• Projects are largely being funded by state grants applied for by commission
By Ben Nelms
The long wait is over for the renovation of the historic Peebles House in Gibson and the streetscape project designed to enhance the look of downtown.
The $437,000 project, financed largely by a Department of Transportation grant, will provide the county with a welcome center and additional office space.
The work now underway in the area of Main Street and Warren Street, along with the Peebles House itself, will dramatically alter the look of downtown Gibson.
Architect Ben Carter told commissioners Feb. 3 he was impressed with the project thus far, adding that the contractor is paying close attention to detail that will achieve an aesthetic look to the downtown area. Both components of the project are expected to be completed in approximately six months, Carter said.
Though currently not as obvious as efforts street side, work on the landmark Peebles House will be something Glascock residents can take pride in, said Carter.
The changing streetscape
When finished, the house will look as it did in the late 1800s, with tongue and groove pine floors and plaster walls. Absent from the house were the original mantles that surrounded the nine fireplaces.
A recent donation of one mantle from the 1880s-1890s can be used for the renovation. Anyone wanting to donate additional mantles can contact the county commission office at (706) 598-2671. Mantles must be from the same time period for historical purposes.
Along with housing the Glascock County Welcome Center, the Peebles House will provide offices on the first floor for the county commission, county transit and perhaps the Glascock County Chamber of Commerce and conference room.
The decision on the use of rooms on the second floor is pending, said Chairman Thomas Chalker.
The Peebles House will be outfitted with new electrical, mechanical and plumbing systems. The building will be in compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards with a wheelchair ramp on one side of the house.
Though originally considered for the project, the wheelchair lift was dropped from the plans because it would pose problems for some of the historic aspects of the structure and given the size of the building.
Carter told commissioners the contractor is responsible for initially treating the house for termites. Commissioners said they would choose a bonded company in the event of any damage that might occur.
The new look on the street will include new sidewalks, 946 feet of them along both sides of Warren and Main, between the Peebles House and the soon to be renovated courthouse. The area will be accented with seven flare-out islands designed for pedestrian and vehicle safety. Pedestrians will be able to walk onto the islands prior to crossing Main Street, thus ensuring a higher degree of safety by getting a better view of traffic. The islands will extend out several feet from the sidewalk, taking a more aesthetic, curved shaped. Due to their positioning along Main Street, the presence of the islands will act as a signal for drivers to slow down and take extra care while passing through the area. Also installed will be crosswalks and handicap accessible ramps.
Islands will be in-filled with India hawthorn and will have a Trident maple planted in each. There was some question about which type of tree would be planned in the islands until local DOT officials recently decided on the Trident maple.
Eighty percent of the funding for the $437,000 project came from a Transportation Enhancement Act for the 21st Century (TEA 21) grant. The remainder represented the county's matching percentage.
Resident claims pollution killed relative
• Tom Austin told commissioners his mother-in-law died of liver cancer he believes could have been caused by the toxic plume from the old landfill
By Ben Nelms
Residents with family property near the 50-acre toxic plume at the old landfill in Louisville took their concerns about water quality to Jefferson County commissioners at the Feb. 10 meeting. They asked commissioners to cover the cost of running water lines to their family home, citing the death of a family member as being directly related to the presence of vinyl chloride in their well. They believe the vinyl chloride came from the landfill plume.
Addressing the board, Louisville resident Tom Austin referenced his request last year to have commissioners provide water hook-ups at residences in the Clarks Mill Road area that are in close proximity to the underground plume of industrial solvents coming from the old landfill. Austin has maintained since his initial statement that his request would not be necessary if the contamination at the landfill did not exist. The most recent water sample results, taken in November, revealed a significant increase in levels of contaminants such as cis-1,2-dichloroethene and vinyl chloride in some of the test wells positioned around the 50-acre underground plume. Austin believed the increases suggested further evidence that the contamination is relevant to area residents concerns even though the levels in residential wells did not increase during the last six-month testing period.
Commissioners and consultants representing QORE Property Sciences continue to disagree that the contaminants such as vinyl chloride in the Saunders well and others in the area were caused by the presence of chemicals in the nearby plume leaching into the well water. Area residents and geologists from Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) have argued that test results provided by QORE are not conclusive. Residents continue to believe that the chemicals found in their wells came from the landfill plume and not from those same chemicals having been dumped onto their properties in past years. The two divergent views form the crux of the issue of contamination and the difference in opinion as to where responsibility lies.
The county originally agreed to run water along the right-of-way to the residences but not onto private property. Austin told commissioners he had consulted a lawyer about the county's position. He maintained that the county had the option of requiring a nominal fee for the work. He was advised that the county could be "held liable for damages to a third party over the operation or maintenance of a nuisance."
"The reason I'm here tonight is because it is my mother-in-law's property and if I wasn't down here she would've been here fighting," said Austin. "Those of you who knew Ms. Saunders know she would not rest until she got this straight. I'm asking (the commission), if you can't give the water away at least hook it up to the house because of the stuff that's in the well at her house, the vinyl chloride."
Reading from a prepared statement, Louisville resident Brenda Josey, Ms. Saunder's daughter, cited three factors used to qualify the matter as a nuisance and hence be eligible to have the county provide the work. Those included a defect or degree of misfeasance that exceeds the concept of mere negligence, a duration that is continuous or regularly repetitious and failure of the county to act within a reasonable time after knowledge of the defect or dangerous condition.
Josey told commissioners she believes that vinyl chloride from the toxic plume entered the family well and caused the cancer that killed her mother.
"Vinyl chloride is known to cause liver cancer in humans and our mother died of primary liver cancer," said Josey. "Normally, liver cancer is a secondary cancer. It is highly unusual in the United States to have liver cancer as the primary cancer. We're not planning to have her body exhumed to test for this but you can realize how we feel about this. It weighs heavily on our minds.
"We believe the landfill and this contamination did cause our mother to have liver cancer. Your cooperation with getting water run to the house would be very much appreciated because we still have family members living there. My grandchildren live there."
The matter was discussed after Austin and Josey concluded their statements. Commissioners reiterated their previous position that they could not authorize work done on private property.
During the discussion among themselves and with Austin, he restated his frustration over commissioners disagreement with installing water lines on the property.
"You know, it's just a huge coincidence to us that vinyl chloride is in that well, that vinyl chloride is one of the main things coming out of that landfill, that vinyl chloride causes liver cancer and that Ms. Saunders had liver cancer and it was no where else in her body," Austin said emphatically. "All we are asking you to do is to do the right thing and run the water to the house. We'll pay for the water, but at least bring the pipes up to the house."
In discussing the board's position with Austin, Commissioner Tommy New added that the board could not do the work for one property owner without doing the same work for the others.
After further discussion, New added that he would personally cover the cost of having water lines installed at the Saunders property without any connection to the commission.
Austin said he appreciated New's offer but still believed the matter is the county's responsibility.
County failed to get permit for drainage at construction site
• Storm water draining from site is running into adjacent creek and into two private ponds
By Ben Nelms
Though work on the Jefferson County Law Enforcement Center in Louisville is progressing on schedule, recent findings indicate that the required state storm-water permit was never applied for or obtained.
State Environmental Protection Division (EPD) Environmental Specialist III Kavita Batra visited the site Feb. 9 and 10, where she confirmed that storm-water runoff from the construction site was draining into a ditch and wet weather creek adjacent to the site and downstream into two ponds on private property.
During site visits Batra spoke with Peter Brown Construction superintendent Ken Morgan in county site manager James Rogers' absence. Morgan said he and Rogers had walked the area and could not determine where sediment may be leaving the site, according to EPD reports obtained under the Georgia Open Records law. Batra's inspection the same day found two to three breaches in the silt fencing separating the site from the adjacent ditch that drains into ponds owned by Louisville resident Glenn Davis. Morgan said the problems with the fencing would be resolved and that another pond would be installed to catch the additional storm-water runoff, reports said. When asked about turbidity sampling, Morgan said he was not aware of any sampling that had been done.
A Feb. 10 EPD follow-up report indicated that county administrator Paul Bryan contacted Batra, stating that he believed the Notice of Intent to secure the EPD-required National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit had not been filed. Batra told officials that not all the required Best Management Practices (BMP) at the site were being followed. She said the silt fences were malfunctioning and were not being maintained, that weekly inspections had not identified the problem and that no NPDES permit existed, the report said. During the conversation, Bryan indicated that he would issue a stop work order at the site. Bryan confirmed later that he had not issued the order in writing though the document was ready to sign. He said the order was not necessary because it involved land disturbance and not construction activities. Batra confirmed the move, stating that construction other than land-disturbing activities could continue uninterrupted and that activities on the site intended to remediate the storm water runoff problem were acceptable.
Contacted Feb. 13, Bryan said the county's failure to submit a Notice of Intent for the NPDES permit was an oversight on the part of those involved in the project.
"We just didn't submit the Notice of Intent to EPD as required," said Bryan. "It was an oversight on our part and it was our responsibility because we require this to be done by everybody else. In this situation, we were the issuing authority and I think this is where the mess up occurred."
Batra said Monday she expects the issue to be rectified quickly. The necessary plans are under development, including modification of the current Erosion, Sediment and Pollutions Control Plan. The plan will include mechanisms to monitor turbidity of the water leaving the site as well as implementation and maintenance of all BMPs for erosion and sediment control.
Problems with the permit were recognized after Louisville resident Glenn Davis reported on Jan. 31 and again on Feb. 6 that muddy water had entered his ponds on property adjacent to the law enforcement center construction site. Davis filed the report with Marshal Alan Wasden. Davis said he believed the runoff originated on law enforcement center property.
According to a report obtained under the Georgia Open Records law, Wasden verified a high degree of turbidity in both ponds and confirmed that storm-water runoff had been pumped from the construction site into a ditch on Clarks Mill Road that flows into Davis' ponds.
"I inspected his farm ponds and did observe a high turbidity level of clay colored suspension in the water and areas of sediment within the water channel leading to his ponds. The water was clay red in color and was draining off the construction site," the report said.
Construction of the Jefferson County Law Enforcement Center is funded by a one-percent Special Local Option Sales Tax.