Tag Archives: Kay Harris

The rest of the story on waste water —Tim Carroll

Received today from Valdosta City Council Tim Carroll, who sent it to a long list of people, apparently responding to the VDT's recent article and editorials.


During my tenure as a city councilman, I have tried to keep everyone updated on events and issues with our city. I want to share and email I sent out recently that hopefully you will agree is important information. In regards to today's paper — the story has some serious errors and omissions. First of all in 2009- all we saved from the flood was the pump station. No sewage treatment was taking place and contrary to what the VDT says, then as we are now — raw sewage was going into the river. It lasted about a month in 2009. With the decision to pull equipment/tanks etc so they would not be destroyed this year — we not only saved a lot of tax payer money….but we will be able to bring the plant back on line in about a week. Reducing by several weeks the amount of sewage going into the river. In regards to city water systems being compromised — considering our water plant is 10-15 miles north of the WWTP and the amazing fact that the river flows south — your water is completely safe. Do we like discharging raw sewage into the river? Of course not. During the flood it was going to happen either way.

I want to add one other note — the men and women in our Utility department, fire, police, sanitation, engineering etc, etc Floridan Aquifer have been working long days this past week trying to manage flooding issues. They deserve our thanks. It is very frustrating for those whose homes and businesses were threatened by the flood. It is very frustrating to our city employees who have worked so hard to manage this crisis.

So as Paul Harvey says — “here is the rest of the story”.

I think Council Carroll is a bit cavalier about the city's wells being upstream of the wastewater treatment plant, because while the river may flow south, it's not clear how the Floridan Aquifer flows, especially with multiple 800 foot deep wells sucking water out of it. Also I wonder what people downstream of the Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant think of all that raw sewage coming down at them, especially considering some of them have wells downstream.

However, he makes a number of points that the VDT omitted, including a plan to do something about the situation, and appended is his "rest of the story".

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VDT v Valdosta Re Wastewater

The VDT has apparently decided the City of Valdosta is to blame for the Withlacoochee Wastewater Woes, and has made its case in a story and two editorials. They seem to have forgotten about the overflow in 2012 already. And the VDT seems to have forgotten about it and its editor's own apparent roles in the loss of the recent SPLOST election that would have funded a new wastewater plant.

Jason Schaefer wrote for the VDT today, Money saved at river's expense: EPD investigates cause of sewage release as waters recede,

When the flooding occurred in April 2009, the City made extraordinary efforts to hold back the flooding, bringing in dirt and heavy machinery to build a berm around the influent pump station and other treatment equipment, working round the clock.

The efforts were successful. The treatment plant remained on during the duration of the flood, and Valdosta's raw sewage remained contained, though the facility incurred damages to its electrical and biological purification systems, according to Utilities Director Henry Hicks.

This year, the City opted for a different approach—cut electricity to the underwater portions of the plant, submit to the flooding and clean up afterwards.

The plant was “taken offline” Thursday at 9 a.m. “to prevent further damage to equipment and associated electrical and control systems,” according to a statement issued by the Department of the City Manager.

The City stated that as a result of the shutdown, “untreated sewage will be discharging directly into the river” at a rate of between five and six million gallons of raw sewage per day.

In addition, the floodwaters were allowed into the plant and around the remaining portions of the berm that was constructed in 2009 during the rising flood. Only half of the berm now remains, as the other half was removed to allow access to the lower portions of the plant, Hicks said.

So far, this year's response strategy seems to have saved the City money. In 2009, about $500,000 was spent in manpower, equipment and supplies to build the berm alone, and the plant, kept running, incurred significant damages though raw sewage was kept out of the river. This year, the money was not spent on the berm or to prevent the flooding, and at least 15 to 20 million gallons of raw sewage will have been released into the Withlacoochee by the time the plant is back online.

There's more in the story, which is well worth a read. Also note this inserted in the middle of the story:

Editor Kay Harris contributed to this story.

The VDT cites the EPA report, National Enforcement Initiative (FY 2011 – 2013) Keeping Raw Sewage and Contaminated Stormwater Out of Our Nation’s Waters, (more about that EPA initiative here) and continues:

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Members of the press or citizens are not welcome at library board? —George Boston Rhynes

Received today. To quote a VDT editorial of 3 March 2012:

When officials act like they have something to hide, they often do….

Here’s George’s Open Records Request. -jsq

George Boston Rhynes February 7, 2013

George Boston Rhynes (229-251-8645)
5004 Oak Drive
Valdosta, Georgia 31605

TO: Valdosta-Lowndes County; South Georgia Regional Library Director/Chair person along with Board Members Respectively, Georgia News Media Outlets concerned about open government and the sunshine brightness…

SUBJECT: An open records request on behalf of the general public right to know…

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Allocate resources in a yearly budget?

Received today on SPLOST VII lost. -jsq

After reading this post, a question came to mind. Have we the citizens of Lowndes County actually been encouraging our elected officials to be fiscally irresponsible with public funds by allowing SPLOST to continue? if elected officials had to allocate resources in a yearly budget, we may actually encourage our officials to allocate resources towards public projects that would be desirable by the public rather than a priority in pthe minds of our elected officials.

-Bill Grow


Speaking of transparency, Lowndes County voters defeated SPLOST VII 18,864 to 17,923 (51.28% to 48.72%). Kay Harris in the VDT today quoted Ashley Paulk with this reason:

The defeat came as a surprise to Mayor John Gayle but not to Lowndes County Commission Chairman Ashley Paulk, who said he warned the mayors of the five municipalities that if they continued to argue over LOST, the local option sales tax, that voters would turn against SPLOST in retaliation.

“I told them at the beginning if they didn’t stop arguing over a few percent of the LOST and refused to leave the numbers as is by taking the county’s offer, that taxpayers were going to turn against the SPLOST,” said Paulk.

“Voters are disenchanted with the way their local governments have gotten greedy and they’re tired of the arguments over money. They voted SPLOST down because they don’t trust us with their tax dollars, and it’s a real shame.”

I would agree bickering over the LOST pie was one of the reasons SPLOST lost, and add to that the opaque back-room processes by which the SPLOST VII projects were selected. While the library needs updated and expanded facilities, the lack of documented decision process for the architect and lack of adequate explanation for that probably didn’t help, either, nor did the county’s puzzling lumping of the library in with Parks and Rec. which they later tried to clarify. Perhaps the voters are tired of seeing transparency be a constant source of tension. And I’m using the library as just one example. I could equally cite the project for a farmers market under the overpass, which I think is a bad idea because the farmers market already has a fabulous location at the historic Lowndes County Courthouse, and so far as I know none of the vendors who sell there were even asked if they wanted a new location, much less the public who buy there.

At the public-not-invited SPLOST VII kickoff speeches the last speaker said they were not there Continue reading

Tired of seeing transparency be a constant source of tension —Barbara Stratton

Received yesterday on Bees in the library —VDT -jsq

Thanks for bringing up the question of selling the current library to SGMC. I tried to follow your link & did not see any reference on the page it brought up. I personally have been wondering why the taxpayers are not privy to any discussions of SGMC purchasing the property. Since SGMC has already purchased the adjoining properties, effectively land locking the current library, I would think the library board would have quite a bit of leverage toward negotiating price & we the taxpayers have a right to know what is transpiring between them. Everyone I have questioned states they cannot find out any information about proposed SGMC/library negotiations or discussions.

Thankfully LAKE does a lot to solicit transparency within local government entities & boards. I for one am tired of seeing said transparency be a constant source of tension. No one should have to constantly work to elicit information that should be readily available. I personally will not vote for SPLOST VII or any other proposed tax until I see local government become more accountable to taxpayers. SPLOST VII needs to die so a more responsible proposal can be presented. We complain about the federal government not balancing the budget, yet local government entities seem intent on devising lists littered with wants instead of focusing on needs as if the economy is thriving. I am an avid library supporter, but I'm not willing to blindly accept the current library board (or boards) opaque tax payer liability assignments.

-Barbara Stratton


Bees in the library —VDT

As its closing argument for SPLOST VII, library bookshelves the VDT argued that the library has bees in its brick walls. Sure and we need a new library. But they didn’t address any of the questions about the Five Points out-of-state architect plan for a new library or about the process by which that plan was produced.

Jason Schaefer write for the VDT 14 October 2012, SPLOST to solve aging library’s problems with modern building,

Plainly speaking, the South Georgia Regional Library is in bad shape. Half of the red-brick building was constructed in 1966, and the other in 1995.

Walking in, the atmosphere seems stuffy and archaic — stained ceiling tiles and old carpet, color-neutral walls and little decoration.

The wiring intended to service the computers is buried in the floor and unable to meet current internet standards, and the machines—35 to process 7,000 logins a month—are all clustered together in one area.

The HVAC system is antiquated, riddled with patches and still slowly disintegrating, and replacement of the system would cost upward of $2 million.

This and their other points are all true, and although I haven’t seen them, I have no doubt this is true, too:

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Library process transparency —John S. Quarterman

John S. Quarterman videoing SPLOST VII Kickoff Speeches It’s good to see that someone responsible for allocating millions of dollars of taxpayer money is willing to answer questions about related decisions, as Kay Harris is doing! It would be even better if there were a regular process by which the taxpaying and voting and library-using public could ask such questions and get answers.

If there were such a process, it’s pretty likely Ms. Harris or the Library Board or the County Commission would have been asked about the architect selection, considering I wasn’t even involved in that selection and my ear was scorched with complaints as soon as it was announced. Maybe Ms. Harris can suggest a way to produce such a process.

Let me take Ms. Harris’ points in order.

“First, they were the only one of the four finalists who did a full cost evaluation of the project, estimating $16 million while others were more than content to use the state’s estimate of $21 million.”

That’s very interesting news, which clarifies for me what she was getting at in the VDT writeup on that selection:

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Why we selected an out of town architect —Kay Harris

Received yesterday on New Library —Kay Harris. My response follows in the next post. -jsq

I was never asked why we selected an out of town architect, but will Kay Harris happily answer that question now. First, they were the only one of the four finalists who did a full cost evaluation of the project, estimating $16 million while others were more than content to use the state's estimate of $21 million. Second, they brought to the project a consultant who is considered the country's leading library consultant; only one of the other four brought in an outside expert. Third, the principals of this firm live right over the county line in Florida—they are within the 50 mile radius that is considered "hiring local", so they are indeed a local firm. They also brought a local engineering firm, from Valdosta, to the table, and have agreed to hire as many subs from the local area as possible. So I truly don't understand the "jab" about hiring non-local… if it was that big a concern, why not just ask me the question? Mr. Quarterman wasn't even in the room at the time I spoke….

-Kay Harris


New Library —Kay Harris @ LCDP 2012-10-01

At Monday’s Lowndes County Democratic Party meeting, LCDP Chair Gretchen Quarterman introduced Kay Harris as chairman of the Library Board. You can see that board in action a few weeks ago in these previous videos.

Kay Harris said she was not there as editor of the newspaper, since as such she wouldn’t be allowed (presumably by the newspaper) at a partisan meeting. She was there as chair of the library board. She said this is her fifth year on that board, and her second year as chairman.

Here’s a video playlist.

She said the county put her on that board to move along the library project, which had been in process for some time. She said she had led negotiations with the City of Valdosta for the Five Points process. She mentioned the Five Points Steering Committee, of which she is also a member.

About the current library building and how the new one would be better, she said,

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