City hesitates to fix sewer line problem for new store

An issue with water and sewer lines that has been ongoing for years came up again in connection with a big-box store that is interested in locating in Gray.

Members of Gray’s City Council agreed at the Feb. 27 called committee meeting to provide water to a small subdivision located on Highway 18 West that is currently served by a private water company, Piedmont Water.

A representative of the company explained the request was for a two-inch line and a water meter. The private company would still be responsible for the waterlines and its customers.

Water and Sewer Committee Chairman Benny Gray was in agreement.

“We’ll sell you the water as long as you take care of the maintenance,” he said.

Councilman Terrell Fulford asked for a written proposal from the city to Piedmont Water that would be voted on at the March 6 council meeting.

The next agenda item was Tractor Supply. Gray called on realtor John Conn, who represents the developer for the project to explain the situation.

Conn said interested parties met at the proposed site of the development and discussed the need to move 600 feet of sewer line and at least one manhole. He estimated the cost of the project to be $27,000.

Gray asked if service to the surrounding businesses would be disrupted, and Conn said no.

Councilman David Tufts asked how the company selected the City of Gray, and the realtor said it was demographics. Conn added that Tractor Supply was also considering Swainsboro.

“We’ve looked at lots for about six months,” he said.

The property that the company is interested in purchasing is where the Palms Car Wash and Bug House are currently located. If the deal goes through, those businesses would be torn down to make way for the new construction.

The location of the sewer line and number of individuals who own the line is the issue, along with the fact that, although the customers pay the city for the service, the city neither owns the lines nor has an easement to maintain it.

Conn’s question to the council was if the City of Gray was willing to pay the expense to move the line since the owners are now willing to work with the city.

Gray said he was concerned that, if the city helped with that expense, it would set a precedent for other developments.

Councilman Terrell Fulford said it would be different if the city owned the line, but it now sits on private property.

Owners of a new restaurant that is getting ready to open near the proposed development found out about the situation with the sewer line and became concerned about their investment.

Council members attempted to assure the owner of the building, Scott Jackson, that nothing going on with the new development would affect the water or sewer service for the business.

Jones County Board of Commissioners Chairman Chris Weidner attended the meeting and suggested the city and county could work together on the Tractor Supply project.

“We talked about working together in our service delivery strategy meeting. This business is not the only one looking at Gray and Jones County. I’d hate to set the precedent that we are not willing to work with new development,” Weidner said. “We don’t want to stop economic development.”

Following the chairman’s comments, Gray suggested the item be tabled until city and county officials could get together to discuss the project.

Conn said company officials with Tractor Supply had a meeting scheduled with the developer March 5, and he asked for a letter from the city stating they would like to work with them.

The realtor estimated that the increase in property taxes for the county if the project came to fruition would be $46,000 annually and $14,000 for the city. That is not considering the sales tax the store would generate or the jobs it would bring.

Fulford said the location of a big-box store in Gray had two sides.

“It’s good when a big store comes in, but it usually means that small businesses will close,” he commented.

City Attorney John Newberry said the problem with the sewer line came about because the entire property started as one tract and had been subdivided several times. Although there are separate properties, the lines are served by a single meter.

“We now have a line that serves multiple buildings, and the city doesn’t have an easement to service those lines,” he said.

Newberry said one option was a temporary easement.

“Whatever happens, we need all water and sewer customers on the lines to be tapped on properly,” he said.

The attorney said the big question was where the money would come from for the taps and to move the lines.

“This is not the city’s fault nor the current owners,” he said.

Newberry said the prospect of Tractor Supply brought up a problem that already existed, but it could be fixed if all the parties were willing.

Conn said he saw the situation as good news and an opportunity for the city to correct a problem.

Gray asked Conn and Newberry to set up the meeting and find out what the parties were asking from the city. That meeting was held March 1.

Although the letter of support was not approved by city council members, the Jones County Board of Commissioners, Development Authority of Jones County and the Jones County/Gray Chamber of Commerce all gave letters of support to Conn to take to the March 5 meeting with Tractor Supply officials.

– Debbie Lurie-Smith |


The Jones County News

P.O. Box 1538
Gray, GA 31032
(478) 986-3929