Uniontown leaders seek public input on wastewater problems

Published 9:02 pm Thursday, July 10, 2014

Uniontown city council member Dr. Vera Davis addresses the crowd during a public forum Wednesday evening. (Jay Sowers | Times-Journal)

Uniontown city council member Dr. Vera Davis addresses the crowd during a public forum Wednesday evening. (Jay Sowers | Times-Journal)

UNIONTOWN —Uniontown’s mayor and city council have started looking for help from the city’s residents to solve the wastewater issues there.

With concerns and confusion mounting over the future of the city’s troubled wastewater treatment system, District 1 Councilwoman Dr. Vera Davis called together her constituents for a public forum Wednesday evening.

Davis, joined by Uniontown Mayor Jamaal Hunter, fielded questions from citizens about the current state of the wastewater treatment system improvements and options for future work.

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Acknowledging a lack of personal engineering prowess, Davis said the purpose of the forum was not for her to answer every question the public had, but rather, to hear their concerns so she would know what questions to ask of the project’s engineers.

“A lot of questions that have been posed to me, and are going to be posed to me, I don’t know the answers to,” Davis said. “I’m not an engineer. I don’t pretend to be one. But if there is information out there, I have sense enough to go find it.”

The wastewater treatment project currently stands at an impasse after the entirety of a 2012 $4.7 million grant from the United States Department of Agriculture has been spent on upgrades that did not resolve the issues.

While the money was spent on improvements to the primary wastewater lagoon, metering systems and piping, problems remain with the two sprayfields.

Hunter said any input for the community would be of great value to he and the city council as they work to resolve the issues plaguing the treatment systems.

“I know we have a problem, I don’t need people to keep telling me we have a problem,” Hunter said. “I wouldn’t go to a doctor every week if the only thing he could tell me is that I had a problem. Help me find a solution to my ailment. What we’re looking for is solutions to our problems.”

Davis told the public to remember the issues surrounding the city’s wastewater treatment facilities did not begin in the past months or years.

“All of the controversy we hear about the wastewater treatment problems, we need to remember this is not something that happened yesterday,” Davis said. “This is something that was inherited by the Mayor and [the city council]. It goes way back.”

During Wednesday’s forum, Davis said she was aware of the need for city leaders to move forward cautiously and carefully consider every option to solve the wastewater treatment issues in the city.

“Whatever we do at this point in time, if we don’t make the best step and the best effort, it’s not going to just impact me,” Davis said. “It’s going to impact the entire city. If we don’t take our time and look at all the opportunities, we could be right back where we are now.”

Uniontown resident Sherman Norfleet thanked Davis for calling the meeting, and said such events are the only way the city can overcome the issues it currently faces.

“Let me commend you, Ms. Davis, for having this kinds of sitting.,” Norfleet said. “I hope this would catch on fire, because there is too much bickering and trauma for a little city like this. We need to be doing the best we can with what we’ve got. I hope you would encourage the other council members to hold these kinds of meetings, because we need people to represent us and our values.”