Three candidates have set their sights on one of the two elected seats on the Brunswick-Glynn County Joint Water and Sewer Commission this year.
Audrey Gibbons and Robert Duncan will be facing off against incumbent Clifford Adams in the primary on May 22. The winner will either be decided in the primary or in a runoff, should none of the three get more than 50 percent of the votes.
The incumbent, Clifford Adams, has lived in the Golden Isles for 55 years, and worked for multiple utilities for 20 years. He was working as a builder when housing bubble burst in the Great Recession, at which point he decided to retire, he said.
He is finishing up his second term despite being in office for four years. His first two terms were two-year terms. The term was later increased to four by the Georgia General Assembly.
“I’ve enjoyed it. It’s been a headache, but I think we’re going the right way,” Adams said.
The utility’s wastewater treatment plants at Academy and Dunbar creeks concern him, he said.
“The plants, in the next two to five years, they’re really going to be looked at hard,” Adams said. “Those plants are old.”
He said the commission’s decision to lower tap-in fees may draw in new business, but the utility will need to find another source of income.
“One thing I do feel good about, to be honest with you, is tap fees. We’ve got tap fees at where I think we’re going to draw businesses in,” Adams said. “But with tap fees like that, we’re not building any capital, so we won’t be able to expand. But that’s something we’re going to have to cross when we get there.”
Adams also wants to use more special-purpose, local-option sales tax revenue to repair and expand the public water and sewer systems, which he said would help the county grow.
“I’ll see if I can help Glynn County and the city grow, that’s what I’m after. And St. Simons, we want to work over there too,” Adams said.
Audrey Gibbons, an accountant, graduated from Brunswick High School and Georgia Southern University, among others.
She is also chairwoman of the Glynn County Democrats and has completed economic development and leadership training courses.
Gibbons said she was inspired to run for the utility commission at a leadership development training course. She said there needs to be more transparency and cooperation between the JWSC, the city of Brunswick and Glynn County, and she plans to push hard to achieve that if she’s elected.
Both the city and the county need commercial and industrial development, but efforts to attract it are crippled by insufficient access to the water and sewer systems. If elected, she plans to pursue federal grants and low-interest loans to boost expansion of the system.
Water and sewer projects need to be prioritized on future special-purpose, local-option sales taxes, she said. Gibbons believes the community needs to put more into the public water and sewer system, pointing to when county residents were prevented from coming home sooner following Hurricane Irma because of issues with the public sewer system.
Alternate methods to fund capital improvement need to identified, she added, as increasing tap-in fees proved to be a no-go. Increased environmental responsibility is also on her agenda.
Duncan’s family moved to Glynn County in 1960. He graduated from Brunswick High School and Brunswick Junior College, now College of Coastal Georgia, before take classes on engineering at other colleges.
His brother, Patrick Duncan, is also a Golden Isles resident who is currently serving on the Islands Planning Commission.
Robert Duncan has worked in utilities for 40 years, for Georgia Power and Duke Energy, among others. He has touched most areas of a utility in his career, he said, including engineering, management, finance, and sales.
“I feel like my experience is very well rounded to serve at a commissioner level,” Duncan said.
Longterm funding is of significant importance for the utility, he said. He doesn’t think the utility can sustain itself on its current revenue from water and sewer rates and tap-in fees.
Proposed spending on the Dunbar and Academy Creek plants in excess of $80 million is unnecessary, Duncan said. Studies have suggested they will be able to handle the sewer flow for the next 20 years as long as they, and the rest of the system, are maintained, he explained.
The utility needs to be able to expand to meet the needs of a growing community, and to be a partner in economic development, Duncan said. To that end, he said he is committed to working with the state and federal governments on funding, if elected.
Duncan also recognized that there are a lot of things the utility commission rules on beyond the major issues, and said he would educate himself on them. If elected, he said he would strive to be a very engaged leader and interact with all levels of the utility, from commissioners to employees and customers.
The Glynn County Board of Elections is still in need of poll workers for the primary. For more info, 912-554-7060.
The primaries are May 22 and the general election is Nov. 6. Early voting for the primary begins April 28. The last days people can register to vote are April 23 for the primary and Oct. 9 for the general election.