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$3 million budget adjustment for Augusta wastewater manager goes for OK



AUGUSTA, Ga. – A budget amendment for a wastewater plant operator and the creation of an Augusta EMS subcommittee go for commission approval Tuesday.

ESG Operations, Inc., a Macon-based firm that has operated Augusta’s Messerly Wastewater Treatment Plant for more than a decade, is increasing its annual fee and adding $2.5 million to its annual contract for additional work for Augusta Utilities, bringing its annual contract amount to almost $9 million.

Last week, the city Engineering Services Committee failed to pass a motion to approve the change, with Commissioner Catherine Smith McKnight voting no and Commissioner Ben Hasan out, so it moves forward without recommendation to the full commission Tuesday.

Augusta commissioners are well-acquainted with ESG as the firm has donated to candidates since winning the wastewater contract from contractor OMI in 2009, according to The Augusta Chronicle’s archives.

ESG gave $1,500 in two donations to commissioners Sammie Sias and Ben Hasan and $1,000 to Commissioner Dennis Williams and Mayor Hardie Davis in 2018. In 2020, an entity called Prairie Mount Land Co., which shares an address with ESG, gave Commissioner Francine Scott $1,000.

ESG founder and principal Daniel Groselle gave $1,000 to former commission candidate Sean Mooney in 2020. Groselle had served as a regional vice president for OMI.

ESG also co-sponsored the 2017 grand opening of the new Augusta Circuit Public Defender’s Office in 2017.

New Augusta Utilities Director Wes Byne, who came from another heavy campaign donor, Constantine Engineering, presented the increases for approval last week.

The commission also may reconsider plans regarding city EMS provider Gold Cross EMS.

With the Martinez company recently presenting a new memorandum of understanding to the city, a requirement for it to be reimbursed for unreimbursed expenses, several commissioners including Sias and Hasan called to delay the process.

Hasan pushed to create a subcommittee, and Mayor Pro Tem Bobby Williams named Hasan as chairman and Sias, Dennis Williams, Brandon Garrett and John Clarke as members.

Hasan said the goal of the subcommittee is not to negotiate with Gold Cross, which has the state designation to handle all Augusta EMS calls regardless of city payment, but to review what the city needs in a provider