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Mistake by Water and Sewer Authority’s former General Manager costs county $22,000 in SPLOST funds

The Dade County Water and Sewer Authority Board requested additional SPLOST funding from the county on Oct. 1 after it was discovered that the Brown Drive Sewer project was designed to stop halfway down the street instead of at the end of the road.


Assistant General Manager Sherri Walker informed the Authority that the decision to stop in the middle of Brown Drive was made by former General Manager Jeff Pendergrass, who resigned abruptly on July 9. The additional 290 foot extension is estimated to cost a total of $22,960.


Walker said many, including herself, were not aware that construction would not stop at the end of the street.


“I was unaware myself that it was stopping right there until [Sep. 28],” Walker said.


Walker said she received a call from a resident living at the end of the street that was upset that the project would not extend to the end of the street so she could tie on to the sewer line. Walker said there are two residents and a business affected by the original decision and that their septic systems are failing because their land is not perking.


“In order to finish this out, since this is the Brown Drive Sewer Project, I’d like to request that we finish that project up and get everybody on that road able to connect to sewage,” Walker said.


“Are the residents county citizens?,” Dade County Water and Sewer Authority Board Chair Eddie Cantrell said.


“Yes,” Walker said.


“We’re doing the work,” Cantrell said.


United Water Services out of Trion, Georgia, which was already doing the original work on Brown Drive, was the only bidder and thus won the bid to do the extension.


Before approaching the county, the board discussed all possible options to pay for the extension.


“Board, we could finish this out of our funds I guess or we could refuse it or we could request the county for SPLOST money to finish this,” Cantrell said. “Part of the reason [the cost] is so high is because it’s hard to find people at this point to do this job.”


“It is,” Walker said. “Every project we’ve got going on right now – we’ve had very few contractors come to bid. That’s mainly because the projects we have may be big to us but they are small in the contractor world. We’ve had only one bidder come in for all of our projects. So they can absolutely name their price for this at this point.”


The Authority sent Board Member Dr. William “Doc” Pullen Jr. to the Oct. 1 county commission meeting to request the additional SPLOST dollars. 


“We’re just trying to lay this thing to rest,” Pullen said. “Due to oversight or undersight, our first estimate was 290 feet short at Brown Drive. That was handed to us just this week.”


“Who was over this project?,” Commissioner Phillip Hartline asked.


“Let’s just say it was a water employee,” Pullen said. “[The engineers] did what they were told.”


“I know a lot about this project,” Hartline said. “I’ve been involved in it. My decision is no.”


“If the money is there, I’m for it,” Commissioner Robert Goff said.


“Is the money there?,” Commissioner Allan Bradford asked.


“Yes,” County Executive Ted Rumley said.


“The person who let this slip through the cracks should not have let it happen,” Hartline said.


The decision was voted on at the end of the regular meeting. Every commissioner except Hartline voted yes to giving the Authority the additional SPLOST funds needed to finish the project.


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