Byron council hopefuls talk water, taxes

mlee@macon.comSeptember 24, 2013 

  • Byron City Council Post 5 candidates

    Alan Dorsey
    Age: 42
    Occupation: Owner, Alan’s Alignment & Automotive
    Education: Graduated from Macon Tech (now Central Georgia Technical College) in 1992
    Political experience: None

    Rick Knowles
    Age: 60
    Occupation: Retired highway patrol
    Education: Graduated from the University of California in 2010
    Political experience: None

    Mark C. Waters
    Age: 52
    Occupation: Owner, Waters Automotive Services
    Education: Graduated from Louisburg College, (N.C.) in 1981
    Political experience: Byron City Council, 2010-present

Two first-time candidates want to unseat a four-year incumbent in Post 5 of Byron City Council. All mention stormwater runoff as a major problem. And beyond that, they’re looking at bringing business to the city, the prospect of a Byron high school and more open government.

Alan Dorsey, Rick Knowles and incumbent Mark Waters will meet at the Nov. 5 election.

“I was born and raised here, and the city of Byron has done a lot for me,” said Dorsey, 42. “I want to get involved.” It’s his civic duty, he said, as a “hometown boy.”

Dorsey said he wants to see businesses, such as restaurants, take root in Byron and some tenants for the empty industrial park.

“I’m probably going to review the taxes,” Dorsey said, but added that he has much to learn and said it’s bad to say anything until he knows both sides of a story. “Taxes are kind of high, but once I get in there I can see why they are. ... You see a lot of money going here, and it takes some investigation to see why it’s being spent.”

Knowles, 60, said he wants to do something about “the high taxes we pay and the few services we receive in return.”

To start with, the city must open its doors a little wider to the public.

“Let’s post the (City Council) agenda on our website that’s costing us money. Let’s post minutes, meeting announcements,” he said.

He would also like council to set aside a few minutes at each meeting for residents’ comments.

And he has questions about sewers: “Why are we still building sewers? Why can’t we fix the problems we have? ... If something’s broken, shouldn’t you fix it first before you start adding more?”

Starting in 2008, Byron and state environmental regulators have wrangled almost annually about the city’s failure to control wastewater, which is now pumped to Macon. Earlier this year, council approved some emergency work to tie Walker Road pipes into the city.

Knowles also wants to see drainage ditches kept clean to avoid flooding.

The California native moved to Byron seeking a more pleasant place to be a senior citizen.

“I’m retired, so I have the time” to devote to council, he said.

Incumbent Waters, 62, said during the last few years, the mayor, council and city staff “accomplished the goal of not raising taxes, nor affecting any employees, nor services. We have done it five years without a millage rise.”

He pointed to cost-savings from farming out wastewater treatment to Macon and garbage services to a private company.

“Coming into the next four years,” Waters, said, “our biggest challenges are working with the growth (and) expanding public safety” in a city that has what he called a “small pocketbook.”

Byron must figure out the best mix of volunteer and full-time firefighters for a department that’s recently expanded to 24-hour service and earned a better insurance rating because of it. It also needs to decide how to handle or stop the garbage that people toss into drains and ditches, causing flash flooding.

“We have identified some areas that could solve many issues, but it all takes money,” Waters said. Better to get more money by growing the city’s tax base, not raising taxes.

He said in the next four years, he wants to be involved in filling the industrial park, which he thinks could profit from increased shipping activity that will come through a deepened Port of Savannah.

Waters, who owns Waters Automotive Services, is in the process of paying off past due federal and state tax bills worth some $60,000.

“I, like millions of other business people, encountered major business disruption during the recession. My business is still in recovery stages, as I work to pay these balances,” he said.

All three candidates want a high school in Byron. Waters and Knowles champion the proposed Byron Peach Charter High School. Dorsey said he would like to see any high school in Byron, whether charter or county.

Both Dorsey and Waters said they think some kind of stormwater fee is in Byron’s future.

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report.

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