Problems surrounding the City of Warner Robins dredging of the Bay Gall Creek may soon be over.
They got into trouble with the state Environmental Protection Division last spring, after neighbors complained that the work was damaging their property.
The city is about to start repairs, but the issue racked up a hefty bill for tax payers.
Dick and Judy Hamilton live across the street from the Bay Gall Creek near Russell Parkway.
Dick Hamilton said, "It's changed a lot since they've been doing some digging, primarily because there used to be a lot of wildlife over there."
City engineer Walter Gray says crews dredged last spring to help the flow of storm water run-off. He says they did that same work for years without permits, thinking they could, because the city considered the Bay Gall a "ditch."
After neighbors complained, the EPD got involved and said it wasn't a "ditch," but a "creek" that requires permits to protect the natural habitat. They say the Bay Gall is a buffer to protect natural waterways from storm water run-off coming from construction zones.
Gray says the dispute, essentially over definitions, resulted in the city making restitution for the error.
Mayor Chuck Shaheen said the city paid $50,000 in fines. He said the fines initially totaled $98,000, but through negotiations, the city paid a lesser penalty.
Shaheen said the city also paid about $10,000 to send engineers to state training, so similar problems would not happen in the future.
Lastly, the city will have to pay about $30,000 to a contractor to restore the Bay Gall. Gray said the $30,000 is not an exact figure, but based on the state's estimate for similar work. The city will open sealed bids for the project Thursday, and council will likely vote on a contractor next week.
Hamilton said, "I think it's wrong."
Hamilton is more upset with the state than the city, believing all the fines should've been waived, because the city didn't know about the classification change from "ditch" to "creek".
He said, "The taxpayer pays for it either way it goes, state or city. We're losers either way."
The Hamiltons say the only win is that the Bay Gall will be restored.
Gray said work to restore the area by planting trees and vegetation should be complete by mid-February. He says they will plant vegetation that will "lay down" when storm surges come through the creek bed, which is typically dry. Gray says that will help prevent flooding problems for homeowners who live near the Bay Gall.
Spokesman for the Georgia EPD Kevin Chambers says they will monitor the work to make sure it's done correctly and the plants grow properly.