A crowd attended the June 13 meeting of the town council in Dearing, where residents have voiced concerns about differences in the water rates paid in Dearing and in the city of Thomson.
"The next time the city of Thomson takes up this issue, the people of Dearing need to be there to express their concerns," said Dearing Mayor Sean Kelley. "I'm not sure if it will be on the agenda at their next meeting or not, but if it is, we need to be there.
"Until it is, the people of Dearing need to write letters to the city of Thomson, attention Mayor Ken Usry, (city administrator) Don Powers, and anyone else on the city council," Kelley said. "Personally, I'd like to see Dearing have 200 people there speaking out on this issue."
The issue deals with a rate-equalization plan which has been approved by the McDuffie County Commissioners but voted down by the Thomson City Council. The plan would increase water/sewage rates for Thomson residents by about $3 a month, while lowering them for the residents of Dearing by about $17. Other parts of the county would experience smaller rate decreases.
"I had been told before the last meeting when it was voted on that the plan would probably be approved," Kelley said. "It looked like the vote was going to be 3-2 in favor of the plan. But, I don't know, something happened, and it turned out it was voted down, 3-2 against."
Part of the problem seems to be that it won't just be Dearing that has its rates lowered.
"I heard there was some resentment that residents of Belle Meade would also have their rates lowered," said a Dearing resident who had attended the Thomson City Council meeting. "I was told there were some members on the council that felt like people who live in Belle Meade are rich, and didn't feel Thomson residents should pay $3 more when Belle Meade residents are going to be charged less."
"I'm convinced this will all be worked out, and I'm confident it will be resolved to everyone's satisfaction," Kelley said. "But until then, we all need to write some letters."
In other business, Kelley announced that Advanced Waste Disposal had been awarded the new trash disposal contract for the city. The city will be signing the new contract once the final papers are drawn up. The new contract will go into effect July 1.
"The trash pickup rate will remain the same for residents of Dearing, but the new contract also includes yard trash pickup once a month during the months of July through December," Kelley said.
Mayor Pro-Tem Alan Axon reminded residents that they need to check local street lights.
"Keep an eye on our street lights and make sure they're working," Axon said. "If anyone sees a street light that isn't working, they need to call City Hall and report it, and we'll get it fixed."
City Council Member Judson Story reported that there was still a burn ban in effect for the area.
"If someone needs a burn permit, they should call the Georgia Forestry Department for permission to burn," Story said. "But the fact is, until we get a significant amount of rain, we can't burn anything at all. And if someone sees a trash fire that needs to be reported, don't call 911, call 2145. That's the direct number to call for a fire that needs investigating."
Story also reported there had been recent vandalism to a local fire hydrant.
"Over the June 4th-5th weekend, someone took caps off a fire hydrant unlawfully, and as a result over a million and a half gallons of water were lost," Story said. "It caused more problems than just lost water; there was property damage also, and a loss of water pressure. If there had been a fire at that time, the fire department wouldn't have had enough pressure at their hydrants to fight the fire. It's a serious problem, so if anybody sees anyone fooling around with a hydrant, call the city of Thomson and report it. You don't even need the exact address of where the hydrant is located. Just give the street or general area, and they'll find it and fix it."
Kelley announced that he's looking into having zoning laws passed for Dearing, which has no zoning at all.
"Zoning talks are coming," Kelley said. "I'm meeting with the regional commission soon, and my goal is to have zoning in place by the first of January, 2012. The goal is to have zoning that isn't too restrictive for our citizens, but still give our residents some protection from businesses and industries being set up in neighborhoods where they're not wanted."