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BOC approves sludge code
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A proposed ordinance prohibiting the application of class B sewage sludge in the county was unanimously passed by the board of commissioners but it was just barely unanimous.

At the Sept. 20 meeting, district one commissioner Gary Pichon initially suggested that he would not support the passing of the ordinance following the second public hearing on the matter. Im against (the sludge sprayfield) for all the reasons that people have cited, Pichon said, I have signed the petition (circulated by the Dawson County Homeowners Association), and I think if the state approves this, they are going to make a very serious mistake.

But Pichon did not, and continues to not, believe that the passed ordinance will be enforceable, nor does he believe it will hold up in a court of law.

I do not believe in passing laws just to pass laws, that dont have a very good chance of enforcement, he said. I talked at length with our county attorney about this case, and basically, if we claim that we have jurisdiction in this, to prevail in law, we will have to go to federal court and sue the state.

It is my belief that we have a very high probability, probably close to 100 percent, that we would lose that case and spend a lot of money in the process.

Pichon asked county attorney Joey Homans for his professional opinion as to the effectiveness of the ordinance in upholding it in a court of law.

It will be an uphill challenge, Homans confirmed.

Its just one more tool in our toolbox that we may have at our disposal as a further challenge to everything else that weve got that may have some impact, Chairman Mike Berg responded.

District three commissioner Jimmy Hamby, who made the original motion to approve the proposed ordinance, also responded to Pichons dissidence.

I understand that this code will probably not be enforceable, he said, but I dont want to give the impression that were throwing our hands up and saying There you go, do what you want of it. Were going to fight, and this is just one of the tools to fight with. It may be a small tool, it may not be what we need, but I want to fight until the end. I dont want people to have sludge out there, I dont want it in our county, I dont want it anywhere around us.

District four commissioner Julie Hughes Nix seconded the motion.

Then the tides began to turn, with Pichon asking Homans about the probability of the ordinance being enforceable should current state law change.

If we were to pass this ordinance, with this date on it, and the state then adjusted the state statute to give home rule on this issue, would we have to readopt this ordinance? he asked Homans.

No, Homans replied.

It would stand on its own? Pichon asked.

Yes, Homans answered.

So, if we pass this ordinance tonight, its with the understanding that and in my opinion, its a futile act because the ordinance will not be able to be enforced but if the state then changed the law and allowed us to have home rule on this issue, we would not have to repass the ordinance, and it would be immediately enforceable at the time that the home rule issues was then passed back to us? Pichon clarified.

Yes, Homans said.

Okay, PIchon said. Well Mr. Chairman, under that ...

Yeah! Berg responded with a cheer, and the audience dissolved into nervous laughter. Pichon continued. Ill load the gun, he said, but nobody should be under the impression that the gun is useful until the state says that you can pull the trigger.

The anti-sludge ordinance was then unanimously passed, with district two commissioner James Swafford absent. Those in attendance applauded the decision following the vote.

Only three spoke during the public hearing, including Philip Anderson, president of the Homeowners Association for Big Canoe. Along with posing health, safety and welfare issues, we are concerned that such activity would also diminish property values in the county, he said. We are concerned that such activity could result in a significant loss of sales tax revenues.

Residents Laura Jones and Sue Boutilier, both of which live in the area where the sludge sprayfield is proposed to be located, also spoke.

We are just violently opposed to having this in our county, and especially next door to us, Boutilier said.

Also at the meeting, the commissioners approved the proposed Dawson County Communication Plan, giving the green light for phase one and two of the project. The county must be switched over to the new FCC-mandated narrow band radio system by Jan. 1, 2013. According to county manager Kevin Tanner, the county is ready to be compliant with the new requirements. However, once that switch is made, coverage throughout the county will be lost, leading to updates needed to the entire communications plan. These first two phases will be funded through SPLOST V funding, with the funding for the third and fourth phases of the plan to be determined.