Tag Archives: budget

Videos: Vote on wood pellet farm –Adel City Council 2020-09-21

The Adel, Georgia, City Council passed the two ordinances for the wood pellet plant with no discussion, yet with some votes against, and protestors outside and inside, on September 21, 2020. There are still things you can do to stop this polluting project that would export our trees from throughout the Suwannee River Basin and beyond, to Europe to burn, producing yet more CO2.

[Protesters outside and in, and the Adel City Council split vote for the wood pellet plant]
Protesters outside and in, and the Adel City Council split vote for the wood pellet plant

Below are links to each LAKE video of those agenda items, with a few notes.

See also Vicki Weeks, Dogwood Alliance, 16 October 2020, Industrial Logging and the Wood Pellet Industry Hurt Us All.

And Dogwood Alliance’s petition to call on Georgia leaders to protect our forests.
https://www.dogwoodalliance.org/actions/stop-the-destruction-of-georgia-forests/

You can also ask GA-EPD to reject the air permit application. Probably more on that later.

For background, see: Continue reading

Wood pellet plant: speakers and documents @ Adel City Council 2020-09-08

Update 2020-09-11: fixed document and map links and added form for comments.

The Adel City Council had no questions after their Public Hearing on annexation and rezoning for a wood pellet plant, Tuesday, September 9, 2020, after thirty minutes of speakers for and against.

That was just the first reading. The second reading will be 5:30 PM, Monday, September 21, 2020, at Adel City Hall.

[Maps and speakers, wood pellet plant, Adel City Council 2020-09-08]
Maps and speakers, wood pellet plant, Adel City Council 2020-09-08

After the meeting I asked the City Manager, the City Clerk, and a couple of City Council members what maps and plans they had looked at. They all said they hadn’t seen any, and maybe I should talk to Economic Development. So I asked her, and she didn’t seem to indicate she’d seen any.

Yet there are maps and plans in the air permit application to GA-EPD, and others reviewed by the Planning Commission, which, as the City Manager pointed out during the meeting, issued a Public Notice of its public hearing on July 6, 2020. I don’t know why these state and county agencies have not published these documents, nor why the City of Adel has not. But those are public documents, so here they are (see Air Quality Permit maps and Planning Commission maps).

Below are videos by Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange (LAKE) of the pellet plant part of the Adel City Council meeting. See also the agenda and the WWALS letter to the Adel City Council. See also some helpful documents by the Dogwood Alliance

And this handy Dogwood Alliance form to send a comment to the Adel City Counci l.

By the way, this kind of work does take time and effort, so feel free to contribute to WWALS. . Continue reading

Adel agenda and WWALS letter 2020-09-08

Update 2020-09-11: Wood pellet plant: speakers and documents @ Adel City Council 2020-09-08.

Here is the agenda for tonight’s Adel City Council meeting:

[Agenda, Adel City Council 2020-09-08]
Agenda, Adel City Council 2020-09-08
PDF

Since it can’t be any of the other items, apparently the wood pellet plant is:
5.B. ANNEXATION AND ZONING OF INDUSTRIAL AUTHORITY PROPERTY

I don’t see anything about any previous hearings, nor any of the maps, plans, etc. that usually accompany a rezoning.

You can still use the Dogwood Alliance Action Alert to send in a comment before tonight’s meeting.

Meanwhile, I sent Adel this letter, mostly about water trails:

[WWALS to Adel, Water Trails and pellet plant 2020-09-08]
WWALS to Adel, Water Trails and pellet plant 2020-09-08
PDF

For background, see Adel wood pellet plant sourcing radius: entire Suwannee River basin in Georgia 2020-09-08.

See you in Adel in about an hour and a half.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

You can join this fun and work by becoming a WWALS member today!

Two thirds of SRWMD Board half there 2019-09-18

It was surprisingly interactive meeting, with the Board members repeatedly questioning staff about multiple projects, sometimes taking up points raised from the audience. One Board Member even stopped a project. Yet half the rump board was not visible, being on the telephone, and the Budget Public Hearing may or may not have been legal.

Nestlé Water Withdrawal Permits

At the rescheduled September SRWMD Board meeting, OSFR President Mike Roth questioned the validity of the permitting process for Nestlé’s proposed 1.2 million gallon per day water withdrawal from Ginnie Springs on the Santa Fe River, since the actual application is from Seven Springs, which proposes to sell the water to Nestlé, which is not a use authorized by Florida Statutes.

[OSFR President]
OSFR President

I seconded that, and added that the SRWMD Board should revisit Nestlé’s permit for water withdrawal at Madison Blue Springs on the Withlacoochee River, since Florida Statutes to authorize them to do that.

You can comment to SRWMD about Nestlé’s permits.

Photo: Jim Tatum for OSFR, of Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman
Photo: Jim Tatum for OSFR, of Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman

Afterwards, SRWMD’s Tom Mirti told me the $70,000 contract with SRWMD for Nestlé to support springs water quality monitoring is required by the Nestlé permit for Madison Blue Spring, even though it has to be negotiated separately. Apparently yet another open records request is needed.

Invisible and Missing Board Members

Continue reading

Lowndes County admits causing sinkhole; is fixing it 2019-06-24

On the Lowndes County Commission agenda for discussion this morning and voting tomorrow evening, is a rare case where the county admits to having caused a sinkhole, and is fixing the cause: KOA Lift Station Emergency Repair

The 8″ line between the manhole and lift station wet well has collapsed. This has created a sink hole effect with sand filling the wet well. A new manhole will be set and 40′ of 8″ pipe will be jack and bored to connect the new manhole to the wet well. RPI, Inc. has provided a quote for $49,400.00 to provide the materials and perform the work.

Lowndes County Utilities Director Steve Stalvey
Lowndes County Utilities Director Steve Stalvey, 8 May 2018.

The other item is not obvious: Continue reading

Valdosta sewer system lift station generators and communications @ LCC 2018-12-06

Maybe you’d like to come compliment Valdosta on the sewer system items on their agenda for tonight (see below), and ask them what they’re doing to prevent WWTP spills, in Citizens to be Heard. That’s 5:30 PM, today, Thursday, December 6, 2018, at Valdosta City Hall, 216 East Central Avenue, Valdosta, Georgia.

Nothing is on the agenda about the recent major spill at the Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant for tonight’s Valdosta City Council meeting.

However, there are three other sewage-related items: Continue reading

Phosphate Mine on Bradford BOCC agenda this morning 2018-05-07

The HPS II proponents don’t want to pay for consultant work on future effects of their phosphate mine. Why should the county (the taxpayers) be stuck with all or part of $53,265.00 to consultants about a for-profit mine that would adversely affect the waters on which the whole county depends, not to mention downstream on the New, Santa Fe, and Suwannee Rivers and perhaps beyond in the Floridan Aquifer? Mine proponents also complained that one subconsultant had “articulated a position of opposition to the HPS application”. If the consultants were uniformly in favor of the mine, what would be the point of hiring them at all?

Map: HPS II Mine Site, Packet
A map as clear as mining mud. Legend: Union Project Boundary (5,421.91 Acres); Bradford Project Boundary (5,262.92 Acres)

I sent Chairman Ross Chandler the the Resolution Against Phosphate Mines in Florida by several Waterkeepers across Florida.

Cost

In the agenda sheet for agenda item 4.B. Direction to staff regarding scope-of-work/subconsultants for Onsite Environmental Consultants (OEC) — Review of application for Special Permit for Mining (Section 14.6, LDR): Continue reading

SRWMD kept money from Florida for “routinely anticipated budget shortfalls”

Where does the buck stop for these “routinely anticipated budget shortfalls”? Who let a budget include those? Isn’t the point of a budget to, well, budget for what’s needed? Or, given the history of deliberate downsizing of environmental agencies in Florida, maybe shortfalls were the point.

Noah Valenstein
Noah Valenstein got the job as secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection on Tuesday May 23rd, on a unanimous vote by Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet. His previous job? Executive director of the Suwannee River Water Management District, which was flagged by state auditors for $22.5 million in “questionable costs”. The audit covered the time Valenstein led the district. He oversees the district in his new job. [Special to the Times]

Mary Ellen Klas, Miami Herald-Times Tallahassee Bureau, 14 July 2017, Auditors find millions in ‘questionable costs’ at water district,

Weak budgetary controls led to $22.5 million in “questionable costs,” auditors found. Officials had transferred $13.3 million of it into the district’s operating account without proper authority. They may have overspent some areas of the budget and directed money to other areas to make up for shortfalls. They set aside $3.8 million “in the event of an economic crisis” without authorization, and they steered $1.7 million “to cover routinely anticipated budget shortfalls” without explanation.

Contingency funds, sure, but “routinely anticipated”? And in an economic crisis, wouldn’t it be the legislature that should be authorizing funds?

Auditors concluded that accounts were “misclassified because district personnel misunderstood” standard accounting requirements and budget staff members were “somewhat new to the process” so they couldn’t explain how and why it happened.

That is what happens when a state massively defunds its environmental agencies and makes political tests and servicing economic development more important than competence. The article goes into that, rightly pointing a finger repeatedly at Governor Rick Scott, who said “ensuring that Florida’s precious water resources are protected and managed in the most fiscally responsible way possible” while:

The five districts, whose boards are appointed by the governor and operate under the oversight of the Department of Environmental Protection, were purged of hundreds of veteran professionals, and budgets were cut in half. They continued cutting their budgets through 2016. Suwannee, because of its small size, had proportionally fewer cuts.

The article discusses and quotes SRWMD staff, with some pretty amusing tidbits, including this one from “Roary E. Snider, the district’s chief of staff”, who

also disputed the auditor’s claim they don’t have documentation. “While we absolutely will provide these records, these documents were largely in hard copy,” Snider said. “Staff couldn’t assemble these additional records in time.”

SRWMD staff don’t know how to use a scanner? Or they didn’t know where they put those paper documents? Or maybe the dog ate them.

The article even quotes Eric Draper of Audubon Florida about “problems we’ve seen at the Suwannee River district with the change of leadership over the years,”. If Audubon Florida “works closely with the water management districts”, what did Audubon Florida know, when did they know it, and why are they only speaking up now?

The actual audit report lists on page 2:

Executive Director
Noah Valenstein from October 13, 2015
Carlos Herd, Interim, from May 14, 2015, to October 12, 2015
Dr. Ann B. Shortelle to May 13, 2015

The article mentions that:

The district is overseen by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which is now headed by Noah Valenstein. His last job was executive director of the Suwannee River WMD during the time the audit was underway.

Guess which fox the foxhouse is turning to for assistance:

The district said it would turn to the Department of Environmental Protection for advice on how to resolve the dispute over whether money is owed to the state.

“DEP has communicated with staff at the Suwannee River Water Management District, and they have informed us that they are reviewing accounting and land acquisition records for additional information,” said Lauren Engel, spokesperson for Valenstein.

“If it is determined that these funds should be returned to DEP, they would go to the trust fund from which the funding was issued, however, DEP would require spending authority from the legislature to use it.”

This is the same Noah Valenstein who told me shortly after he was appointed to SRWMD that he believes that Florida law requires him and SRWMD to provide water resources for economic development. Maybe he should have paid more attention to making sure the economic resources of the District were properly organized.

The Miami Times-Herald story as carried by tbo.com (Tampa Bay Times) has a bit more pointed headline and picture caption (see top of this blog post), Auditors find millions in ‘questionable costs’ at water district, but will it matter? Continue reading