FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — For the past 22 years, Tim Perkins has helped the Forsyth County Water and Sewer Department grow.
When he started in 1996, the value of the system was $35 million. Now the value of all the assets is over $612 million. The department has gone from an annual budget of $7 million to $90.7 million proposed for 2018.
“I had the chance to grow up with the system and enjoyed building it,” Perkins said.
He’s been with the county a total of nearly 30 years, as an assistant county engineer and assistant public works director for about seven years before transitioning into his current position in the mid-90s.
He fell into the position when he was in public works when the county manager approached him asking if he’d be interested in the job.
“They needed somebody who understood the county, people and policies,” Perkins said. “I didn’t have that much experience in water and sewer, but we were a very small system. It really wasn’t that important to the county. I got lucky.”
While he learned the ropes, he didn’t anticipate the way the system would swell.
The county didn’t have any wastewater facilities when he started, but now it has seven plants and one drinking water plant.
“We build a lot of stuff to keep up with the growth,” Perkins said. “We’ve always known the growth was fast paced. We didn’t have the luxury of some other systems that have had to be a little more patient with their planning and growth. For now, we have over $100 million worth of projects under construction and about $330 million of construction to do in the next five years.”
The department is set up as an enterprise, meaning the rate payers cover all costs, rather than being supported solely by taxes, he said.
“I enjoy getting to serve the people and being able to help provide high quality drinking water and highly treated waste water facilities for environmental needs,” Perkins said. “It’s been very rewarding.”
He credits the various boards of commissioners who were supportive of the department and willing to get new technology to help the department, including computer models that predict what trends the department will see.
Being able to make an impact in environmental issues and weigh in on state government policies has also been something Perkins has appreciated.
One of the biggest issues he’s faced is the tristate water wars that Georgia has been a part of with Florida and Tennessee over which state gets to use the shared water. He said it’s hard sometimes because “water doesn’t know political ties.”
Most of his senior staff has been working with him for more than 18 , and all have a mentality of helping the public.
They’ve had to manage the influx of water customers that went from 1,500 customers in 1996 to the current 59,000.
“The developers had to put up a lot of infrastructure, but we had to build the facilities and main truck lines,” Perkins said. “The very first sales tax program funded a lot of water lines. That’s what started a lot of the growth and expansion.”
Water and its quality are essential for life, he said, so they are sensitive to protecting the environment and the water people drink.
“We take comfort in that we’re putting out high quality and safe drinking water,” Perkins said. “We feel like we’re contributing to that and helping people. If I ever feel like I’m not providing a benefit or service, I’ll probably retire and go do something else.”