One of the less-attractive aspects of the county's discussion this past year of consolidation was a disagreement with Grovetown about sewer hookups.
Not exactly a glamorous topic. But it's of vital importance for fast-growing Grovetown; without its own sewage-treatment plant, the city had to rely on Columbia County's infrastructure to provide enough capacity for all those new homes. And Columbia County, without more money for additional capacity, could have left Grovetown high and dry.
Leave it to ever-innovative Grovetown to come up with an alternative: Go to another county. And the agreement illustrates just how insignificant artificial political boundaries can be.
The city recently worked out a plan to link up with Augusta's sewer system, crossing the county line in the Gordon Highway area with nearly a mile of new lines.
Augusta has far more capacity in its already expanded system, and with a much lower growth rate the city isn't expected to outstrip it anytime soon. And with Grovetown planning to divert much of its new sewage to the Augusta lines, that will relieve Columbia County's capacity. As Grovetown's Water and Sewer Department Director Todd Baldwin said, "It's a win-win situation for both of us."
Just as importantly, this arrangement again demonstrates the importance of a regional approach to development issues. Columbia County no longer has a landfill, and most of its privately hauled garbage goes to Richmond County's landfill. We have no airport, so most of our passengers go to Augusta, or McDuffie County, or to larger airports outside the area. And we have no arena, so most big-ticket entertainment also is outside the county.
This is why Columbia County has more than just a passing interest in how well Augusta governs its affairs. Ideally, the neighboring communities could forge mutually beneficial partnerships, such as the agreement between Grovetown and Augusta.
Naturally, Augusta's sometimes dysfunctional government can make such partnerships a little scary. But with leaders such as Mayor Deke Copenhaver, Mayor Dennis Trudeau and County Commission Chairman Ron Cross setting a more cooperative tone, many more "win-win situations" are starting to seem possible.
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