Nobody loses job for Fayette’s water system failures

Brown wanted system ‘managers’ fired, but gets no support from other commissioners; Rapson ‘disciplines’ 5 system employees

Fayette County Commission Chairman Steve Brown insists he has seen enough to determine that “top management” at the Fayette County Water System “need to be terminated.”

Yet instead of firing top water system managers, County Administrator Steve Rapson announced Friday that he was suspending five unnamed water system employees without pay, along with other penalties, in the wake of two independent reports of basic operational problems at the county’s two water treatment plants.

Brown, in a letter to the editor this week, contends that he is beyond disappointed with the scenario.

“Up to this point, I have seen mismanagement, misdiagnosis of water problems, poor maintenance, alarmingly poor communication, incompetence, poor planning and the inability of management to assume responsibility,” Brown wrote. “... Based on what I have personally witnessed, recognizing the enormous impact the water system has on our citizenry, I have consistently maintained that top management in the system need to be terminated.”

The decision to punish the water system employees instead comes from Rapson “with the support of the remaining county commissioners,” Brown wrote, admitting that the punishments would be considered “firm ... under most scenarios.”

“While any disciplinary action is a step in the right direction, my personal opinion is we did not go far enough,” Brown wrote. “However the decision has been made and vetted through the Board of Commissioners, so we will move on.”

Rapson has not yet released the full details of the employees’ discipline, including their names, citing a Georgia law that allows such records to be released 10 days following such disciplinary action. Rapson also noted that a county policy gives each employee up to five days to determine whether or not to appeal the decision. The employees signed their disciplinary papers Friday, Rapson said.

The Citizen has filed open records requests for information related to the disciplinary actions.

Rapson said Friday that each of the five disciplined employees also received pay classification and title changes, varying performance improvement plans and each will be subject to a disciplinary period.

Discipline handed down by Rapson includes requirements for “senior management” to prepare a corrective plan to address the findings of the EPD sanitary survey. Also, senior water system management must also prepare:

• A comprehensive capital improvement plan for the system;

• An update to standard operating procedures;

• A comprehensive communication improvement plan; and

• A customer service improvement plan.

Meanwhile, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division has recommended that five water system employees including Director Tony Parrott be investigated to determine if they “practiced fraud or deception,” or instead were “incompetent or unable to perform their duties properly.”

While none of the water system’s problems over the past several months have made the water unsafe to drink, they have eroded consumer confidence in Fayette’s drinking water, Rapson acknowledged.

Starting in May, water treatment problems literally left a bad taste in people’s mouths as taste and odor problems dragged on for several weeks.

A consultant who helped ameliorate the taste and odor issue determined that significant problems with operations at the Crosstown Water Treatment Plant in Peachtree City were to blame.

In a separate report documenting a review of the water treatment plants following the taste and odor problems, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division cited the water system for violating 10 Georgia safe drinking water rules and listed 147 deficiencies in the system that needed to be addressed.

Faulty plant operations were at the heart of an episode with high manganese levels in raw water that forced the shutdown of the Crosstown and South Fayette water plants, according to the consultant’s report July 25. That report cited improper lab testing, use of the wrong intake gate to draw water from Lake Horton and a failure of an automatic switchover machine that caused chlorine levels to drop at the Crosstown plant, which should have been detected by the overnight plant operator.

Rapson said Friday that residents expect better from the water system, and he wants the system to be positioned and recognized “as one of the superior water systems in the state.”

With five employees facing a potential state investigation, 10 drinking water rule violations and more than 140 deficiencies that need to be addressed, Fayette’s water system is currently not in the running for the “superior” label.

The county is undergoing a bid process to select a new “engineer of record” for the water system, a service that has been provided by Mallett Consulting for years and years. Mallett has been focused on maintenance and expansion of the water distribution system, but has not delved much if at all into operational matters, according to David Jaegar of Mallett Consulting.

kathryne lee
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Water

It will all be swept under the rug eventually and all but management will lose their jobs because management didn't do theirs.

Robert W. Morgan
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So, Tony gets a 2-week vacation errrr, suspension

and a to-do list of plans and procedures assigned by Mr. Rapson. Fine. When is he supposed to come up with these plans and procedures? Before or after the vacation? Is he to do that alone or will he get help from the other suspended managers? Will these plans and procedures be reviewed by someone outside the water department? All good questions.

I did see where Tony was also being put on probation after the suspension. I hold out some hope that a misstep will result in termination, but it is a faint hope.

Husband and Fat...
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Wish I could mess up like this

At my job and get 2 weeks off to catch up on household chores or go to the beach.
The rest of us, would have been fired, and rightfully so.

Bunch of wimps. (Rapson, Ognio, Barlow, Oddo, & McCarty)

I hold these men responsible for the next Parrott ah shucks.

highflyer2
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Remember our talk the other day Steve?

Fayette Politics at it's best, makes me want to throw up!

ptctrader2010
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These guys have to go. INCOMPETENCE

I agree with Mr. Brown... I disagree with Mr. Rapson. One can only surmise that there is information we don't have... Or Mr. Rapson is on a "risk mitigation" path.

I suspect there is more "foul" here than just the water.

Husband and Fat...
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No bottled water tonight

On the dias. All but Brown get tap water.

kathryne lee
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This is only the tip of the iceberg. The good old boys have been collecting a paycheck for years without doing the job they were paid to do. Time to clean house. THIS IS OUR WATER PEOPLE!!! And those in charge don't care to do anything but sweep it under the rug. How did it get so bad that no one noticed before this???? Are there no annual inspections? This is becoming a very long line of people not doing their job.

suggarfoot
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we could have had more of a problem
Bruce Jordan
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Alrighty then, problem identified

The problem is Rapson. Our first clue should have been that he stayed on vacation when this hit the fan. Now he comes back and circles the wagons to protect the good old boys. Putting the news off 10 days won't solve this Rapson. It didn't go away while you we're gone. Barlow's prayers won't save you. If the water Dept managers stay, I predict you will be gone as well as any council
person who tries to throw you a life line.

AtHomeGym
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Jordan/Rapson

No, Rapson is not the problem--problem is too damn many armchair/keyboard supervisors who have many opinions and zero actual responsibility!

Bruce Jordan
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Oh right at home, armchair supervisors tainted our water

When you drank that koolade was it made with Crosstown water?

AtHomeGym
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Jordan & koolade

NO koolade and my water comes from a 140ft Drilled Well!

Husband and Fat...
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Gosh Mr. Jordon

Do you really expect the highest paid county employee (on the job 7 + months) to actually care enough to cut short his vacation to deal with something as trivial as clean water? What planet do you live on? LOL

One leads by example. If he doesn't care enough, why should the employees?

Bruce Jordan
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Good timing on the vacation. One has to wonder with your

Connections. Maybe you knew this report was coming?

AtHomeGym
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Chairman Brown's Vote of 'no-confidence"

That's what it sounds like to me and if I was Steve Rapson,I just might say, OK Jack, you think you know better,here'ya go--you got it--I'm outta here! And what's wrong with other Commissioners being satisfied that the Administrator's doing what he's paid to do and is more qualified than any of them to do it. Too bad the Chairman can't figure that out.

Husband and Fat...
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AHG

We will assume you're not satisfied with the recent reports.

Do you think the present staff is capable to bring us up to par?

Or

Are you simply afraid of a lawsuit?

Or

Are you waiting for the EPD to lay the hammer down on the employees and county for not reacting appropriately?

fay79isus
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AHG---- Hoping it will just blow over

The Fayette Water Nazis have spent millions on this monstrosity and hope to keep-on-keeping-on.

AHG is just one of that crowd. Maybe he/she works for or is this so-called "interim attorney" who is fond of snail mail. Who uses that anyway?

Of all the things that government does and should not do and undertakes to do, you would think that any problems connected to DRINKING WATER would send up huge red flags. No. Not here. It will blow over and people will forget about it before the South Carolina game.

AHG, Rapson, Parrott.....They'll keep on collecting those gubment checks.

And, most amazingly, we PAID for all of this !!!

AtHomeGym
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fay79isus

Hot flash for you: I WORK FOR NOONE!