When Mahlon Burson awoke on Friday morning he had no idea of the life changing surprise that was in store for him. He missed a clue when his wife Mavis stopped him from driving alone, so that he could arrive early, in his old pickup truck to the ribbon cutting ceremony at the city’s new water treatment plant on Winer Industrial Way.
As Mayor Judy Jordan Johnson takes to the podium, Burson who is surprised at how many people have showed up for a ribbon cutting on a rainy and overcastted morning, missing yet another clue. In the crowd of more than 50, Burson stands with family members and others listening to the mayor.
Mayor Johnson in her opening comments publicly recognized past and currently serving elected officials, city staff, and representatives from the engineering and construction firms that built the plant.
“Now at this time I would like to give a special recognition to Mahlon Burson,” said Mayor Johnson, to Burson’s surprise. “Mahlon served (on City Council) our city for twenty six years. And each year he kept our water system in the forefront.”
Johnson said after being elected to the city council, in 2003, that it was Burson who served as her mentor. Among the many things he taught her, was the importance of the city’s wells and water system.
In January of this year during a visit to City Hall, Burson asked Johnson if the city was going to open any new wells this year, the mayor said “yes”. He then asked her if the city would open the water treatment facility plant in 2011, to which the mayor, again, said “yes”.
Before leaving City Hall on that day, Burson said he wanted to become the driver for the mayor; and to do that he wanted a white pickup. In the days that followed this visit if he missed seeing the mayor he would leave a note with his request to be her driver in hand written notes.
“Well Mr. Burson if you will look over here to my left and your right, you will see a white pickup,” said Mayor Johnson at the ceremony. “I regret to tell you though it has been cut from the budget.
However for your dedication to our city and specifically to our water system, it gives me great honor to open the Mahlon Burson Water Treatment facility.”
As Burson takes his place beside the mayor at the podium, the mayor said a white truck will one day be salvaged and that long after she and Burson will be gone, the Mahlon Burson Water Treatment facility will serve the residents of Lawrenceville forever.
“I had no idea that this was going to happen,” said a surprised Burson. “I can’t comprehend this. I am elated..”
Burson, 84, said improving the city’s water system and bringing these wells on line is one of his greatest accomplishments.
“What happened was back in 1990 we got a couple of million dollars of government support, the city put in about two million dollars and that’s when we started drilling for wells,” said Burson.
The Mahlon Burson Water Treatment facility currently produces 115,200 gallons per day of treated water from the #7 Winer Well. This facility was built to treat one million gallons in a day. Within the next two years the city plans to add four additional wells bringing the city’s new water production total to 662,400 gallons. These new wells are all located near the Burson Treatment facility.
“This water facility is part of an effort for the city to become close to becoming self sufficient in supplying water to its citizens,” said Councilwoman Marie Beiser.
Currently the city purchase water from the county for $4.38 per 1,000 gallons. The city has estimated that it can produce the necessary water supply at just under $2.00 per 1,000 gallons. These savings and possible water rate reduction will not occur until all of the wells are up and running.
“We have already seen through the drought situation,” said Charlotte Nash, Board of Commissioners Chairman, “that we are going to need every drop of water we can get from any source that is available. This facility is another way of making sure that a city within Gwinnett County will have water for the future.”