Rockdale water resources: Gibbs named new director of operations

CONYERS - A team of one can't get much done, said Rockdale County Water Resources Director Dwight Wicks at Monday's Board of Commissioners work session, as he presented the new RWR Deputy Director of Operations and Engineering Terrell Gibbs.Gibbs comes to Rockdale County from Atlanta where he served as a senior water resources engineer for four years. He has a doctorate degree and is licensed as a professional engineer. His annual salary was set at $76,000.Wicks said a careful selection process paid off.RWR narrowed the original applicant pool of 15-20 to four candidates. Phone and on-site interviews followed, and Gibbs stood out among the pack, Wicks told commissioners.But the new leadership addition to share the RWR workload may have been the only good news as the rest of Wicks' report explained to commissioners that RWR is "battling to get our heads above water and stay above water."Commissioners raised a few eyebrows during Wicks' presentation of a quarterly evaluation on the department, especially at a couple of missed opportunities to reduce costs and increase capital.Nearly $84,000 in revenue may have slipped through the county's fingers from a septic waste receiving station at the Quigg Branch treatment plant that has been idle, Wicks said. Wicks took the reins as director in February and got the system back online, and it has brought in $83,900 in six months, he said.Commissioner Oz Nesbitt said imagine if it was operational all year."From a business standpoint, based on what you just said, I don't know what kind of leadership could have let that sit out there like that," Nesbitt said.Chairman Richard Oden called it the result of "nobody watching the house.""We're expecting you and your team to monitor these types of things," Nesbitt said.Boasting of the Rockdale County water treatment plant's designation as the best in the state, Oden stressed the importance of having the water-related infrastructure to boost economic development and attract new business."We don't have the significant capacity to sustain the development we would like to market," Wicks said."It's heartbreaking to me that we have put ourselves in this position, almost backed up against the wall," Oden said.Commissioners also learned of a major operation of unauthorized water use. RWR caught a 6,000-gallon truck belonging to C.W. Matthews Contracting Company taking water from a county fire hydrant. And it is uncertain how long the company has been doing it.The company is doing resurfacing work on Interstate 20. Pavel Vayner, RWR general engineering manager, confirmed Tuesday that RWR fined C.W. Matthews Contracting for tampering.Nesbitt was disappointed to hear people "just loading up on Rockdale County.""If you see anybody or anything that doesn't look official ... go ahead and notify the authorities," Nesbitt told the listening public.Residents are the best set of eyes for water theft, called out Sheriff Jeff Wigington from the listening audience.Water woes continued as Wicks explained the Environmental Protection Division required the county to shut down three of its southside plants and agreed to a three-year extension with conditions to control discharge of phosphorus into local streams.Wicks said the extension buys some time while RWR decides what to do about residents in those plants' service area. Options are to extend Quigg Branch's service to the area or construct a new wastewater treatment plant to service the south of the county."And that's certainly an issue. It's not one that's going to be solved overnight," Wicks said.Wicks said in his closing remarks that the seed has been planted to improve the county's water program and RWR and residents will yield the fruit in time.Alena Parker can be reached at alena.parker@rockdalecitizen.com.