Three restaurants in the Pier Village on St. Simons Island may not have to shut down next week after Glynn County and water utility officials found a way to keep the water flowing.
“We did find a way to keep those folks operational through the modifications of the lines that are interfering with the storm drainage, but to do that we had to rely on the county’s cooperation to use their water line,” said Jimmy Junkin, executive director of the Brunswick-Glynn County Joint Water and Sewer Commission.
Contractors hired by the county dropped the news on local business owners at a Wednesday Pier Village drainage project update meeting: the JWSC would have to issue a precautionary boil water advisory after lowing a section of water main that conflicted with the proposed path of a new drainpipe.
The advisory, which would apply to St. Simons Tea Company, Barbara Jean’s, Brogan’s South and The Half Shell, would force the restaurants to close at least on Monday and Tuesday, possibly longer.
Many village business owners weren’t happy with the news, including Jim Barta, one of the owners of Barbara Jean’s restaurant at the corner of Beachview Drive and Mallery Street.
“In other words, we won’t be able to open,” Barta said Wednesday. “... You’ve got to be kidding.”
Many details were still up in the air Friday — such as how the utility would charge the restaurants for usage and where, exactly, the water line would run —but Junkin said the big picture was already pretty figured out.
“Basically, in conjunction with the county, we’re going to be able to tie off to a line that services the lighthouse and Casino, and come in the back way to serve those restaurants,” Junkin said.
Deputy utility Director Andrew Burroughs said the utility will put a meter on the bypass water line to keep track of how much the restaurants use. That amount will be deducted from the county’s water bill, he said.
Whether or not the utility will charge the restaurants for water used during the outage is undecided Burroughs said, and it’s likely something the utility commission will discuss at its Thursday meeting.
David O’Quinn, at-large county commissioner, contacted Junkin during the Wednesday meeting to start trying to find a solution. He tempered his optimism, however, stating they couldn’t definitively say it was going to work until the water started flowing through the bypass.
“It’s encouraging to see how responsive they were. I know I really appreciate them taking the time to make it happen,” O’Quinn said. “There’s still no guarantee it’s all going to work, though.”
Hearing that these businesses could be shut down for two or more days during a tourist-heavy season caused him to realize how severe the issue could be, he said.
“If you remember, the news was for them to be shut down most likely for two days if everything went right. It could have been longer,” O’Quinn said. I think that, for me, was an important realization that we need to try to do something to help these folks out. The restaurant business is a tough business, there’s not a lot of margin.”
St. Simons Island Commissioner Peter Murphy, who also attended the meeting, said he was glad the restaurant owners were getting some good news, adding that “poor diagrammatic records” of water and sewer lines in the village have regularly created issues for contractors working on the project.
“We’re extremely pleased that joint water and sewer was able to come up with a workaround to allow them to have a clean water source during the project,” Murphy said.
O’Quinn also noted that restaurants can file water interruption plans with the Georgia Department of Public Health, which would allow them to continue operations under certain conditions when their water service has been compromised.
“It’s good information for restaurants to know. It does take time, it is laborious, but it is out there,” O’Quinn said.