MOULTRIE -- Continuing problems three years after the U.S. Post Office was built on North Main Street point to the slow pace of state bureaucracy, City Manager Tony Rojas said Wednesday.

One of the properties that the city bought for the Post Office once was the site of a service station, Rojas said, and pollution was discovered at that time from an underground fuel tank that the city removed.

But the state Environmental Protection Division is still not satisfied with contamination testing at the site.

On Tuesday night, City Council voted to hire Advanced Environmental Technology -- the company in charge of the clean-up at the old Swift Building site -- to oversee the rest of the testing and reporting at the Post Office site.

The problem is a "line of water," Rojas said, about three to four feet deep. The fuel from the tank seeped into that thin layer of water and is migrating through it like oil spreading across a bowl of water.

The EPD wants to know how far the plume of fuel extends, he said, and the agency believes test wells currently at the site don't answer the question.

"They're going to make us test until we show where it migrates," Rojas said.

Of the five test wells at the site, the state says three must be re-dug, Advanced Environmental Technology's Steven Syfrett told the council Tuesday. AET disagrees with the state's assessment on two of the wells, he said, and he hopes to convince the agency that those two are usable.

One more well will need to be added across the street near the Main Street office, though, he said.

Rojas told council the city had hoped to avoid placing a well there. The Main Street office site itself was once a gas station, so a well there could find contamination from that site instead of the Post Office site. That could lead to an entirely new clean-up job.

Rojas said the contaminated water is not a source of local drinking water. He said preliminary testing indicates the fuel in the slow-moving water would biodegrade before it reached a body of water that any other community might use to drink.

In other action Tuesday, the council:

Approved the third and final reading of an amendment to The Soil Erosion and Sedimentation Control Ordinance to bring it in line with changes in state law.

Approved the first and second readings of an amendment to the city charter to make it compatible with a proposed ethics ordinance. Rojas said an old -- but valid -- clause in the charter prohibits a candidate from spending money seeking a city office. He said he suspects that clause has been ignored for decades, but it was discovered during research for the ethics ordinance. That ordinance would allow candidates to receive campaign contributions so long as no favors were done for the donors.

Approved the first and second readings of an amendment to the Model Telecommunications Ordinance that allows the city to give a cable franchise to the owner of telecommunications infrastructure, even if that person will lease that infrastructure to the cable provider. Prior to the change, the franchise could only be given to the service provider itself, but a change in state law forced a change in the local ordinance.

Added streets in the Carlton Woods area to a list of streets submitted to the Georgia Department of Transportation's Local Assistance Road Program. These are city streets from which the state DOT will choose some to resurface. Rojas said he expects the DOT to agree to resurface no more than about a mile and a half of Moultrie streets.

Accepted a $7,500 fine from the Environmental Protection Division for excessive treated waste that went into local waterways while the city repaired equipment at the water treatment plant. The initial fine was $10,000, but the EPD reduced it after a review because the city was working to avoid a more serious pollution problem when its waste level exceeded its permit in January through April 2001.

Approved two contracts relative to an Internet presence at Georgia's rest areas. Computers at the rest areas will access W

eb sites of participating communities to draw travelers to them. One contract was with the Georgia Municipal Association to establish and maintain the sites. The other was with the Moultrie-Colquitt County Chamber of Commerce to establish a means of paying for them. The city has already given the chamber $2,000, which will be paid to GMA to set up the sites. The $500 per month maintenance fee will be paid by the chamber, either from business contributions or as a deduction from the tourism budget the city provides the chamber each year.

Heard from Janice Tucker of Rowland Drive, who complained of smelly and rusty water. Roger King, director of the Utilities Department, said he had only recently learned of the magnitude of the problem -- it appears to affect the entire neighborhood -- and steps have already been taken to make things better. He said if current efforts fail, water lines in the area may have to be replaced, but he was not prepared to recommend that yet.

Heard from Jessie McKinney of First Street Northwest, who complained of an open drain pipe the city had left near her yard. King said the pipe was part of an overflow from the water tank in the area, and he and Rojas said the problem should be able to be fixed Wednesday.

Learned that police are blocking streets around C.A. Gray Middle School between 3:15 and 3:45 p.m. to make it easier and safer for students to get into buses or cars in light of the construction at the schools. Closed are Elliot Brown Road from Northside Drive to the corner of the school; 11th Avenue Northwest at Ninth Street Northwest; and 11th Avenue Northwest at the circular drive in front of the school.

Heard an annual report from the Municipal Gas Authority of Georgia.

Heard a review of the audit of Fiscal Year 1999-2000.

-- By Kevin C. Hall

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