CONYERS — Claiming he can find no record of Rockdale County having taken ownership and maintenance responsibilities for the stormwater system on a resident’s property in the Honey Creek subdivision, Rockdale County stormwater principal engineer Todd Cosby said Tuesday that the county is not responsible for the water runoff problems the resident is having.
George Kelechek, who bought a home on Clubhouse Lane in the Honey Creek subdivision in 2017, first began coming to the Rockdale County Board of Commissioners (BOC) meetings in 2018 seeking assistance with the stormwater issues on his property.
Feeling the county has done little or nothing to assist him, Kelechek recently took his story to several Atlanta television news stations, which aired pieces describing the damage done to his property, which includes damage to his pool area, brick and iron fencing, and soil erosion. The stormwater system in Honey Creek was installed by the developer decades ago.
At the BOC evening work session held at J.H. House Elementary School on Feb. 18, Kelechek stated Chief of Staff Corey Hambrick told him in 2019 that the county did not want to set a precedent by making stormwater repairs on private property.
Kelechek said while the county does nothing, he has lost $50,000 in his property value since 2018, and that the devaluation of property in the entire subdivision would cost the county tax revenue.
Dallas Brett, who bought the Honey Creek Golf Course and Country Club five years ago, also spoke at the work session, stating that there are many other homeowners in the subdivision with stormwater issues, with some possibly losing their driveways to the runoff damage, and that even the golf course has costly stormwater issues with runoff damaging the course.
“In the five years we’ve been here, stormwater repairs have amounted to over $110,000,” Brett said. “Repairs I’m not supposed to do, but have to do to keep my business open. This year we’re looking at another $25,000-$30,000. These are liabilities we’ve assumed. I can’t wait for the county or stormwater (department) to do it.
“I just want to make you aware that these repairs and costs can’t go on forever. If you didn’t learn anything from Highlands closing, when Highlands Golf Course closed, that neighborhood lost 30% of their home values overnight.
“George (Kelechek) losing $50,000 in his appraisals is a drop in the bucket,” he continued. “In the subdivision, 600 homes losing 30% of their home values is $45 million. In just your millage tax, that’s roughly (a loss of) $1 million.”
BOC Chair Oz Nesbitt Sr. agreed that there are stormwater issues all over the county, but said they come from 40 or more years of neglect on the county’s part before his administration took office in 2017.
“As this board continues to move forward, stormwater is a high priority on our radar,” Nesbitt said. “Every time it rains we are out trying to mitigate issues all over this county. They didn’t just happen, and it is going to take quite some time for us to get to.”
At the Board of Commissioners’ meeting Tuesday morning, Kelechek requested a meeting including himself and three other property owners in Honey Creek facing serious issues, with Nesbitt, Cosby, and newly appointed Stormwater Director Dr. Ann Kimbrell to see if the issues can be resolved.
Nesbitt reiterated that the county cannot afford to set a precedent of working on private property.
“If we began to start working on private property throughout Rockdale County, the line would be so long and this county would be bankrupt,” he said. “Our principal engineer and former Stormwater director Todd Cosby presented to this board last year that $122 million is what it would take over the next 25-30 years to even bring stormwater up to par. That’s because of the 40 years of neglect.”
Nesbitt said the county is willing to meet with the homeowners, but that they had already completed an internal investigation into the issues and asked Cosby to provide them.
“We have done an extensive investigation of this issue,” Cosby said. “We did field inspections, looked through county records, interviewed former county works personnel, and we have not found any evidence that the county ever accepted ownership or maintenance responsibility for this system on Mr. Kelechek’s property.
“There is a problem,” Cosby admitted. “There is a deterioration and possible separation of that pipe that has resulted in sinkholes, in settlement, in structural damage to his pool area, and is getting close to his house. However, the county has, by all indications, never accepted maintenance responsibility or ownership for that system.
“We didn’t just arbitrarily make up this position on Mr. Kelechek’s property,” Cosby continued. “If we would have seen any kind of record that we had accepted ownership or maintenance responsibility, then we would have been there already. If we would have seen any kind of work that the county had done on that property, we would be there already.”