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Posted: November 9, 2013 9:30 p.m.

Mansfield talks sewer plant, financial issues

Mansfield needs to perform significant repairs on its sewer system and is also looking to install speed radar signs to slow traffic and prevent parking along Ga. Highway 11.

The Mansfield City Council discussed all three issues at Thursday’s work session, and members also agreed they need to reach a final resolution on how to move forward from questions about the mayor’s spending, which have led to heated council discussion and much interest among residents.

Sewer plant

The city needs to upgrade the system it uses to remove chlorine from the filtered wastewater it releases back into the creek adjacent to its wastewater plant off Loyd Road. Mansfield buys water wholesale from Newton County and then sells it to residents and provides sewer service.

Buying the dechlorination equipment and having it installed will cost the city around $30,000, according to Rick Jeffares, project manager with G. Ben Turnipseed Engineers.

Jeffares and Tim Thompson, representing Jet Utility Services, said the plant is getting into bad shape, and they recommended several other optional repairs, including repairing rusted pipes and replacing a screen that would take out more solids when water enters the plant. The city is using chicken wire to help filter now as a stopgap measure. Thompson said pipes are breaking on a regular basis.

The work is expected to be bid out soon; however, itemized bids will be sought, so the city can repair whichever items it chooses. Jeffares said the repairs must be finished by Oct. 11, 2014, but said repairs wouldn’t take more than 45 days.

The council is expected to get a report about how much it still owes on the wastewater plant and will look at refinancing debt. Newton County, the Newton County Water and Sewerage Authority and the county’s five cities were declared WaterFirst communities by the state in early 2012; as a result, Mansfield can get a 1 percent discount on state loans.

No parking on Ga. 11?

Parking along Ga. Highway 11 is common in the town of Mansfield at local businesses, but it presents a hazard for people trying to turn onto the highway from side streets.

The council is considering passing a city ordinance to ban parking on both sides of Ga. 11 from County Road 213 to the Mansfield Community Center.

The state would do the no-parking striping and also put in crosswalks between the U.S. Post Office and Hays Tractor and between City Hall and the Where There’s Smoke barbecue restaurant. The city would be responsible for ongoing maintenance.

The city can’t lower the speed limit below 35 mph, city officials said Thursday, but the crosswalks serve as visual cues for drivers to slow down.

Some streets would also be turned into one-way streets, including the street behind Blackwell’s Grocery and the alleyway behind the Post Office, according to Councilman Marty Smallwood.

The city is expected to vote on the ordinance at Monday’s council meeting at 7 p.m. at the Mansfield Community Center off Ga. 11, just south of Mansfield City Hall and Kellogg Street.

 Radar speed signs

The council also is expected to vote on whether to put up radar speed signs on Ga. 11 and County Road 213.

Smallwood said he has gathered two bids and is expecting a third bid before Monday’s meeting. Signs can be powered by electricity or can be solar-powered.

The hope is not that the signs will provide data to show that the speed limit should be lowered; that’s not happening, and, actually, data could hurt the city, because the speed limit could be increased if enough people — 85 percent — drive at a certain speed limit, city officials said. However, the signs would make more people aware of how fast they’re going and perhaps coax them to drive at a speed closer to the current 35 mph limit.

 Memorial highway

The city is also expected to name the portion of County Road 213 from the Mansfield city limits to Beaver Manufacturing as the Ed Needham Memorial Highway, in honor of Needham, the late founder of Beaver, the global yarn company that is the city’s largest employer, only industry and active community supporter. Needham died in October.

 Financial questions

For the past few months, Mansfield council meetings have become contentious affairs as council members Smallwood and Lisa Dunn have repeatedly questioned Mayor Estona Middlebrooks over spending for questionable purposes and without council approval.

The council members also say they don’t know if they can trust the mayor stemming from another incident. The city reimbursed Middlebrooks for wages lost from her full-time job as a flight attendant while she was helping with tornado cleanup in late April. The city reimbursed Middlebrooks by paying three months of her personal utility bills. The city council discussed reimbursing Middlebrooks, but never officially voted; however, Councilman Larry Cummins told the city clerk to go ahead and reimburse Middlebrooks.

Dunn later discovered the reimbursement had been made, without council approval. Dunn said previously Middlebrooks did not pay back the money until instructed to do so by the city attorney. Middlebrooks has repeatedly said mistakes have been made, but she is willing to pay back money and work to make sure mistakes are not made going forward.

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