LEESBURG, Ga. — Leesburg Mayor Jim Quinn confirmed Monday morning that interim city Public Works Director Bill Mitchell had been removed from his position.
"The (Leesburg City Council) determined that Mr. Mitchell's services are no longer required," Quinn said.
Hired Aug. 19 of last year, Mitchell had been charged with the day-to-day operations of the city's almost $6 million wastewater treatment plant, which officially came online earlier this year. He later was named interim Public Works director.
Quinn said part of city officials' concern with Mitchell was a failure to meet all Environmental Protection Division requirements in the operation of the treatment plant.
"EPD had sent us a consent order informing us the city was being fined because (required) phosphorus levels were not being met," the mayor said. "I think Mr. Mitchell tried to hold the levels down in a way that would save the city money, but it did not meet EPD standards."
Quinn said Stevenson & Palmer Engineering Inc. of Albany has taken over the daily operations of the treatment plant while the search for Mitchell's replacement is conducted. Stevenson & Palmer has a contract with the city to provide engineering services.
"Stevenson & Palmer designed the plant, so they are very familiar with its operations," Quinn said. "We hope to have a replacement (for Mitchell) in place in a couple of months, but the plant is in good hands."
S&P Vice President Ronny Dudley said the phosphorus issue was one of several that developed during Mitchell's term as manager of the treatment plant.
"I think Bill's problem with the phosphorus was that he did not follow advice not to run recycled water that contained phosphorus through the plant," Dudley said. "He got in trouble by not wasting the sludge that developed when the (microbes) that took on the phosphorus released it (into the wastewater) when they died off.
"But I also think Bill had a lot of other issues with EPD. He did not file reports on time, and I was told he was argumentative with their officials. There were a lot of things that were not being taken care of. It was just poor management."
Quinn acknowledged reports of growing discontent with Mitchell among city officials after he became interim director of Public Works.
"I liked Mr. Mitchell and, frankly, thought he did a great job," the mayor said. "But there were a number of people (in the city) that he did not get along with. The council had talked about the issue, and with the city going into a new budget year they thought it was time (for Mitchell to go).
"Frankly, this was kind of a surprise to me. But when you have seven bosses, I think it's sometimes hard to please all of them."
Dudley said it was "no big deal" for Stevenson & Palmer to assume management of the treatment plant. He said his firm would submit a bid to provide services on a permanent basis if the city requested one.
"I plan to meet with them and discuss options," he said. "Certainly we'll give a proposal if they ask for one, but I'll wait until I get further direction from the council."
Quinn said the city's priority concern would be getting a full-time manager of the wastewater treatment plant in place. Then it will decide on the Public Works position.
"We hope to have that position filled in a month or two," he said. "There's a publication that deals with this type profession, and we'll probably advertise in it. After we bring someone in, we'll determine if we want that person to serve in both capacities or if we want to look at other options for Public Works."