Photo By SCOTT COOPER
Waycross City Manager Raphel Maddox (center) watches, along with employees of the city and ESG, as Will Corbitt, of ESG, measures the sewage level through a manhole near the sewage lift station (background) on Bonneyman Road. Preparatory work at 8 a.m. today was being conducted in advance of a shut-off of water-sewer services.
The City of Waycross is taking a literal stance to a judge’s ruling Monday that boots the city from the jurisdiction of Pierce County.
Preparations are ongoing to cut off water and sewer services at the county line at some point soon after a 5 p.m. Wednesday meeting of the Waycross City Commission. It is practically a foregone conclusion that the commission will vote to discontinue the services.
That would mean some business, residential and church properties would be stuck without water and sewer (unless they have deep wells and septic tanks).
Jim Stewart, of Stewart Candy Co., one of the clients along Bonneyman Road that have been on city water-sewer for years, said Monday he is not sure what the company will do if the city goes through with its plan.
“I really don’t know what we’ll do,” said Stewart. “We will see when it happens.”
Waycross City Manager Raphel Maddox said Monday that the city was preparing to shut off the services, and this morning he was at the Bonneyman Road lift station while ESG staff made preparations to shut it down. The ESG company is a city contractor.
Besides prep work at the lift station, which is the main sewage pumping station, ESG staff were to mark water and sewer lines and hydrants in the neighborhood today in advance of a shutdown, Maddox said.
Maddox explained that because of private property issues, the lift station would have to be shut down sometime today or the property owner could bar them from coming onto the land. If sewer lines were to operate for several days, it would fill up and possibly overflow. The city expects to have shut down the sewer taps to residents before that happens.
“A certified letter is being sent,” Maddox said Monday, “to all customers to let them know the services will be cut off.”
Asked pointedly if the city had considered that its actions will result in the suffering of innocent clients of water-sewer services, Maddox said the city has no choice but to protect itself from further loss.
“First of all, we aren’t causing the injury to (the clients),” Maddox said. “House Bill 523 is to blame for that.” He added that no services could be rendered to “folks (who) won’t be paying city property taxes.”
And the city, he said, would be left open to being charged fees by Pierce County.
“At some point, if not this year, maybe three years from now, Pierce County could decided to charge the City of Waycross franchise fees for operating water and sewer lines in its jurisdiction,” Maddox said.
Perhaps the biggest impact to the discontinuance of water-sewer service would be felt at a church where some 700 congregants worship, New Life Assembly of God. Attempts to get comment from church officials this morning were in vain. Associate Pastor Kaleb Landcaster declined to speak, saying he would rather leave that up to the pastor, and Pastor Andy Peacock did not respond to voice mails.
The city in the 1980s was asked to annex a portion of Pierce County into the City of Waycross to provide water, sewer, police and fire protection services. Waycross also owns land in Pierce County on which it has constructed wastewater treatment facilities.
Since that time the city has served several businesses, a church and at least one resident, all of whom may find themselves disconnected from water and sewer services if Waycross proceeds with the action Maddox proposes.