Friday, May 1, 2009

Did the DeKalb County School System skirt a stop work order from the State in order to keep the school on schedule?

During the heavy rains in early April, Joe Hirsch said, he watched day after day as mud oozed from a school construction site into a stream near his Dunwoody home. He figured that was a violation, and thought a simple phone call to authorities would get it fixed.

Environmental Specialist Kappitola Williams checked out his complaint. She found that the school system’s contractors lacked a construction permit. In an interview this week, she said that she could have issued a stop-work order with a monetary penalty, but that the school system agreed to stop work voluntarily.

Yet work on the site continued, she said. Hirsch alerted her and on Tuesday, Williams visited again. “They evidently just ignored it,” she said of the agreement to stop work.

From the AJC & Kudo's to Joe Hirsch

8 comments:

Dunwoody Mom said...

Is this the same Joe Hirsch who spent an inordinate amount of time attempting to stop the senior center at the MJCC?

DunwoodyParent said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DunwoodyParent said...

Mom,

does it matter who it is making the complaint if the complaint is real? It seems as the state's EPD seems the issue is real. Don't shoot the messenger. Your anger should be directed to those causing harm to the environment.

People in Dunwoody have been making noise about a farmer's market, having a LEED school building, bike lanes, blah blah blah. Then the contractor at the school pollutes the stream and you question the source of the complaint instead of backing him up? Why aren't the farmer's market folks wearing green and protesting the sight? Why aren't the Vandy moms there to protest this environmental issue? Why aren't the bike riders organizing a bike ride to the stream? Go get 'em Joe!

JerryGarcia said...

DunwoodyMom really doesn't get it. Joe is doing something good for the community and she is trying to attack him? No, Joe never argued against a senior center - because no one ever requested to build a senior center. There was just a bogus application for a "convent/monastery" (because senior centers were forbidden)! Does DunwoodyMom think it is ok for developers (including the MJCCA)to lie on their zoning applications? If you don't like the rules, change them.

DunwoodyParent has some very good points – but Joe is also one of those who has been speaking up in favor of the farmers’ market at all the meetings.

Pattie Baker said...

I'm not up on this issue, but would like to be. Would someone possibly email me more about this? freshbakedcopy@mindspring.com
Thanks.

DunwoodyPerson said...

John,

I noticed you changed the headline of this story. Your previous title referred to environmental concerns. Now, it’s about building the school in time. It seems you have shifted some of the blame. It really doesn’t take much time for a contractor to put up erosion fences or to renew their permits as they are legally supposed to do. I think an excuse that they want to build the school by deadline is hogwash. Rather, here’s a new headline you should consider: “DID A SCHOOL CONTRACTOR IGNORE RULES AND REGULATIONS BECAUSE NOBODY WAS LOOKING?” If Dunwoody code enforcement knew of the problems, along with DeKalb code enforcement, DeKalb Commissioners, Dunwoody city council members and DeKalb school officials yet nobody enforced anything, that speaks a lot more about the inability of our city and county. The state EPD had to step in because of our local inabilities. I suspect there may be other developers who recognize the same potential ineffectiveness of our city and county governments. The end doesn’t justify the means. Getting the school built on time is not a reason to ignore codes. Put the blame on ourselves.

John Heneghan said...

DeKalb schools fined $30,000 for Environmental Violations at Dunwoody Elementary

DeKalb County schools have been fined $30,000 for draining muddy water into a Dunwoody stream and other environmental violations while building an elementary school.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Environmental Protection Division issued the fine against the school system earlier this month for multiple infractions during the construction of the Dunwoody-Chamblee Elementary School on Womack Road.

The fine comes as the school system is considering a decrease in teachers’ salaries, closing magnet schools and cutting other programs to meet a $56 million deficit.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution obtained the order in which the school system was cited for violating the state’s Water Quality Control Act. The order is addressed to Patricia Pope, former school chief operating officer, who is the subject of a criminal investigation by the DeKalb district attorney for bid tampering.

Reached at her home Monday afternoon, Pope declined comment.

DeKalb schools spokesman Dale Davis said the fine was paid by the contractor, the architectural firm and the geotechnical firm hired by the district.

"The school district paid these firms to manage the storm water properly," Davis said in a statement. “Since they didn't, it was their responsibility."

EPD officials inspected the school construction site in April after receiving a complaint from Joe Hirsch, who lives near the school.

“I observed an obvious erosion problem,” Hirsch told the AJC. “Dunwoody and Pat Pope said it was fine, but I kept seeing mud wash into the street.”

EPD inspectors found muddy water draining into a nearby stream and sediment traps filled with mud, according to the order. They also found hay and other debris near the waterway. State law requires all construction debris be kept 25 feet from all waterways.

The EPD also cited the school system for not having a proper erosion control plan for the project. The school system also did not maintain inspection reports and rain logs, as required by law, according to the state agency.

Inspectors also foundthe district had been building the school without a valid storm water permit from August 2008 to April 2009.

On Monday, Hirsch said the construction is complete and the drainage problems havebeen addressed.

“I’m glad it’s over and see it as an unfortunate waste of school monies and time,” he said. “None of this would have happened if Pat Pope would have just done her job. I wasn’t trying to get anybody in trouble. I just wanted to see the mud stop washing off the property.”

In addition to the fine, the school system spent about $30,000 on lawyers and environmental consultants to fight the EPD violations, according to school system invoices.

Dunwoody Mom said...

So, the school system spent $30,000 of its own money to fight a fine that the contractors were paying? Really?