Sewer project serving Baxter gets moving

COVINGTON -- A sewer project that will serve Baxter International and all of Stanton Springs park is on the fast track to be completed by January.

The $14 million project includes a 14-mile force main and four lift stations. The force main will run from Stanton Springs to the Newton County Water and Sewerage Authority's Yellow River Water Reclamation Facility, where treatment will take place.

"Baxter will have hundreds of construction workers on site during construction and their building development is phased so they will be utilizing the wastewater service as soon as we can complete the project," said Executive Director Mike Hopkins on Tuesday. The project is being funded through a Georgia Environmental Finance Authority loan.

The sewage will be pumped via force main to the Yellow River treatment facility and will tie in to the City of Covington's treatment plant, for emergency use. This means that service will be uninterrupted even if there is a problem with the Authority's wastewater system.

Hopkins said Covington officials have been very supportive. "We've worked things out to be really good for the whole community," he said.

The Authority's attorney, Liz Pope, successfully petitioned the Board of Commissioners June 4 for an easement in order to run the line.

"Instead of coming all the way up to the (U.S. Highway) 278 intersection with the Bypass or the (Ga. Hwy.) 142 intersection," the line will run parallel to a Covington sewer easement that "turns at Peachtree Academy, goes through the woods, paralleling the Alcovy River back out to the Bypass Road near Patrick's," Hopkins explained. "The city has an existing outfall traveling through the same property. The Board of Commissioners owns the property. We were asking them for an easement to put the force main through there."

Hopkins said that route was preferable to installing the line around the rock quarry or the newly improved intersection at U.S. Hwy. 278 and the Bypass. Hopkins said the route will save the Authority an estimated $2 million and "we wouldn't be negatively impacting the intersection that was just completed."

The easement is on property that was purchased by the county to mitigate environmental impact in the construction of Bear Creek Reservoir, said County Attorney Tommy Craig. The county purchased more than was needed, he said. Pope said the easement is about 1.5 acres. The Joint Development Authority also donated 18 acres of easements for the project.

Eventually, the Authority will construct a wastewater treatment plant on property it owns at Stanton Springs. That's a $19 million project. The construction timeline is dependent on future growth in the Stanton Springs area, Hopkins said.

Because of the amount of discharge from Baxter, a pretreatment facility will be constructed on the Baxter site. Wastewater will go there before going to the Authority's treatment plant. The pretreatment facility will be funded by the Joint Development Authority of Jasper, Morgan, Newton and Walton counties. The JDA agreed to fund up to $7.9 million for the pretreatment facility in an inducement agreement with Baxter. The JDA was awarded earlier this year a $5.9 million loan by GEFA for that facility. Newton and Walton County's portion of debt service payments is 37.5 percent, or a total of about $2.2 million. Morgan County is responsible for 15 percent and Jasper for 10 percent.

The interest rate on the loan will be zero percent during construction and 1.8 percent after construction, with a 30-year amortization. Payments won't start until some time between 2018 and 2020.

The JDA has also obtained a $2 million One Georgia EDGE grant for the pretreatment facility.