WASA to gain power to extend sewer lines beyond PTC?

RedZone’s Tony Frank lowers a Solo Unmanned Inspection Robot into a manhole to begin inspection and data collection of the condition of PCWASA sewer lines. RedZone crew leader Dean Young (L) monitors the data collection unit. The sewer-crawling camera allows technicians to investigate the condition of the PCWASA sewer system, and collect valuable data for prioritizing rehabilitation and capital projects. Photo/PTCWASA.

Authority may sack ‘city veto’ provision to go outside PTC limits

The Peachtree City Water and Sewer Authority voted Monday to refinance its bonds to save money for ratepayers.

While the move would save as much as $1.3 million, it also puts the WASA board in a position to potentially abandon an agreement with the city that effectively gives the city council a veto power over any extension of the sewer system beyond the city limits.

There are no pending proposals to extend sewer service outside of the city, and the prospects for doing so aren’t promising, said WASA General Manager Stephen Hogan.

“We have no active requests, and we’re not looking to expand, because that costs money,” Hogan said.

WASA’s vote to refinance the bonds did not include a provision to abandon the intergovernmental agreement with the city, Hogan said. But the topic is clearly on the table and has city officials squirming and scrambling behind the scenes for a way to one-up the WASA board and preserve the city’s veto power.

Part of the reason WASA voted on the matter Monday was due to an urgency to refinance before interest rates went back up, Hogan said, noting that WASA had not heard back from the city on WASA’s request to have the city back the bonds but eliminate the sewer extension veto from the agreement.

WASA Chairman Mike Harman contended last month that over the past few years the city has turned down sewer extensions to Senoia and unincorporated Coweta County that would have provided significant revenue. Revenue is a pretty big deal to WASA because it does not survive on tax dollars but instead is funded by ratepayers.

With revenue declining in part due to the loss of Photocircuits, one of WASA’s largest customers, the authority last year raised rates by an average of about $20 per month for homeowners while also enacting a rate increase on commercial and industrial customers. Instead of making the decisions based on WASA’s financial health, the city council instead based its rationale on the theory of controlling growth in Coweta County, Harman noted.

In the case of Senoia, it backfired because the city ultimately built a new sewer treatment plant that gave it far more capacity than the proposed agreement with WASA.

WASA stands to take a bit of a financial hit by refinancing on its own without the backing of the city and its outstanding credit rating. Without the city, WASA will have to set aside a $1.8 million debt service reserve fund with cash it currently has available for any contingency.

On the flip side, if the city backs WASA’s bonds, that debt service reserve fund won’t be needed, and the savings rises from $1.3 million to $1.8 million due to a better interest rate, officials have said.

The vote Monday to refinance the bonds without the city’s assistance was 2-1, with WASA members Mike Harman and Tim Meredith voting in favor and member Phil Mahler voting against. Although WASA has five board members, the bylaws require a majority of the quorum present for any vote to pass.

Hogan noted that the authority has been working toward refinancing its bonds for the past three years.

Meantime, other sewer system operators are looking at WASA's robotic sewer line inspection program.

This summer, PCWASA officials have welcomed visitors from the governments of Garden City, Ga., as well as the city of Columbus and Augusta Utilities. They all have come to ask questions about the use of RedZone’s robotics technology, while observing the efficiency and accuracy of RedZone robots in the field.

At present, these technological innovations are busy rolling through the PCWASA sewer lines and collection mains to inspect the structural integrity of the Authority’s infrastructure that serves approximately 11,000 customers.

During the PCWASA August board meeting, Keisha Lisbon Thorpe, the authority’s division manager of technical services, reported that the RedZone project was well ahead of schedule and past the halfway point, as work has been “progressing along nicely and without incident,” she noted.

The RedZone robots have been averaging data collection on approximately 5,700 linear feet per day, a pace even more efficient than originally anticipated. To date, the robotics technology has inspected approximately 470,000 linear feet of sewer lines; as a result, RedZone has completed 58 percent of the project, several months in advance of where the project was expected to be at this point.

The Authority joined forces earlier this year with RedZone Robotics, a contractor located in Pittsburgh, Penn., which is a hotbed of robotics research and development. Their work featuring the RedZone Solo Unmanned Inspection Robots, which are lightweight systems with onboard intelligence and full coverage tracking, began in mid-April. The robots are able to collect data at such a rate that their efficiency and accuracy is unmatched in the industry, say Authority officials. What will take the robots to collect and inspect in a year, would take more than a decade to accomplish via other conventional data collection and inspection methods, such as manual review or televising lines.

Within the terms of the contract between PCWASA and RedZone, the work has been scheduled for seven days per week, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Having completed more than half of the inspection and data collection already, the project is on pace to be completed several months prior to the 15-month original timeline.

moelarrycurly
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WASA Mike Harman and Tim Meredith

WASA revenue comes from it's ratepayers, you say. So, you refinance and save 1.3 million. That better mean that 1.3 million comes back to the ratepayers in the form of lower sewer rates. Put that in writing, too, you two.

Robert W. Morgan
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You one funny dude, mlc. Rates never decrease.

That savings won't cover the cost of the Red Zone contract and the cost of the urgent and immediate repairs they discover. And since the savings won't happen because city council won't relinquish control, there will be another rate increase to cover the "lost" $1.3 million.

See, city council needs to control the process so they make more stellar decisions like turning down millions of dollars from Senoia. That's why they need control, so they can make questionable political decisions instead of good business decisions. That way they can increase our taxes and then turn around and increase our water and sewer bills. Maybe they can take over the cable TV franchise so they can vote on who can get premium cable.

Dondol
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RWM - Im confused as to actually owns WASA

Since Lennox paid for the Water and Sewer company with tax payers dollars how is it that we should have no control?

Cal Beverly
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Who owns WASA? WASA does

From the PTC website (http://peachtree-city.org/index.aspx?NID=145):

==========================

Water and Sewerage Authority
PCWASA
Contact
Stephen Hogan
General Manager
1127 S. Highway 74
Peachtree City, GA 30269

Phone: 770-487-7993

The Peachtree City Water and Sewerage Authority (PCWASA) is a publicly owned utility charged with the collection and treatment of public, commercial, and industrial wastewater within the city of Peachtree City.

Sewer System
The Authority owns and operates the entire sewer system infrastructure located in Peachtree City. Georgia Utilities privately owned the city’s sanitary sewer before the Authority purchased the system in 1996. The city’s potable water supply infrastructure is owned and operated by Fayette County Water System.The current sewer system infrastructure in Peachtree City consists of two wastewater treatment plants, 35 pump stations, approximately 78,000 linear feet (14.5 miles) of force main, and approximately 900,000 linear feet (171 miles) of gravity sewer.

Board
The Peachtree City Water & Sewerage Authority is overseen by a board that consists of 5 citizens appointed by City Council. The Authority is divided into three divisions, Collections, Operations, and Technical Services.

The five-member board meets on the first Monday of each month, 6:30 p.m., at the Authority offices, 1127 Highway 74 South.

Members

Tim Meredith, Vice-Chairman
Phil Mahler
Mike Harman, Chairman
Luis Valencia

==========================

Well ... that's not the whole story. WASA was created by a local bill passed by the Ga. General Assembly to be an autonomous AUTHORITY not subject to day to day political winds and waves (that was the theory, anyway. As we know, there's always politics involved; just whose is the question, and who answers to whom).

The PTC Council actually negotiated the sale of the sewer system to an authority that had no other assets, so the money borrowed was backed by the PTC Council and ultimately the PTC taxpayers.

A promise was made at that time by the council that WASA would never extend its sewer service beyond the PTC limits, since that meant two things: Opening up vast tracts of unincorporated county land (as well as in Senoia) to high-intensity, dense commercial and apartment development right on the city's borders and (2) taking away a finite amount of sewage treatment capacity from ever serving PTC residents.

Those two reasons are still valid today.

The full WASA board is unaccountable to the council, the taxpayers or even the rate payers at any one time. The only way to get rid of a board member (short of criminal activity) is to wait out the member's 5-year term and have Council appoint somebody else.

However — and this is a big one — what was created by local legislation can be un-created by local legislation and its assets transferred to an accountable board or council.

If you don't like what WASA is doing, talk to your local legislators who represent Fayette County.

Look for more on the WASA push in this week's The Citizen.

— Cal Beverly

Robert W. Morgan
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WASA Board unaccountable? So what?

Is our mayor accountable? Is city council? What difference does it make? I'd rather have those on WASA making decisions about our future instead of this mayor and this council - George and Kimmy are all right, but come on.

I've already laid out how WASA and the city can get the bond savings, give up veto power and reserve enough capacity for projects that we really want - or at least approve of and get this convoluted relationship fixed once and for all. Requires some planning (which PTC is good at) and leadership (not so much right now) and vision (which we have plenty of if the right people get involved). But that won't happen because it is hard work and mayor and council will just fight for the sake of fighting.

fay79isus
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Morgan, you sound like Joseph Goebbels...

Morgan, you sound like Joseph Goebbels..." Sewer is good, sewer is good, sewer is good..." Got it--- you want to sewer the entire countryside and develop it with whatever you guys want. Sorry. We need MORE control, not less. You like Marta Learnard ??? That figures.

Robert W. Morgan
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No fay, I'm not a Nazi, nor do I want to sewer the entire county

The real Nazis (like you) did in fact want more control and if that is your goal - fine. Veto everything. Freedom is overrated.

My whole point about this is very simple. Please read it and understand it if you can. It appears below

If we as a city have control of the sewer system, let us use it to our maximum benefit.

That means if we are going to have to consider things like extending the sewer system outside the city - let us do it now with previous thought and planning instead of knee-jerk reaction from some future city council led by a mayor that doesn't know jack.

That means plan ahead and decide now what projects we want to give sewer to and which ones we don't.

Then publicize that decision so we don't get sewer extention applications which are contrary to our wants and needs and we don't see Doug Dillard showing up and demanding his client's "fair share" of the sewer system.

That way, the citizens and future developers can see and understand what we want and what we expect.

This prevents nutty developers contacting a nutty mayor and proposing something nutty that we as a city have already called out of bounds.

It also encourages a sensible developer to propose projects that we actually want.

It also enables us to reserve the sewer capacity we need for PTC and not allow any of that to be given away to the developers on or beyond our border.

How hard is that?

This works for every thinking person in PTC - the others will block any development, annexation or sewer extension and get sued and lose. Can't happen, you say? Why is Norsouth building a Section 8 senior's project next to the Holiday Inn? Huh?

Uh, fay, the Nazis would have moved the seniors out and used the space for good-looking blond and blue-eyed young people. Are you ok with that? Fay sounds like a Jewish name to me. What say you? Where do you live?

PTC Observer
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Cal - Thanks for

The information, are the board members paid?

If so, how much are they paid?

NUK_1
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PTCO: They are unpaid

Volunteers.

PTC Observer
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NUK_1

Thanks NUK_1, appreciate it.

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