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Community of Ivey working to bring back Lake Tchukolako

According to a court order, Judge Terry Massey called a special meeting allowing voting to take place.

WILKINSON COUNTY, Ga. — People in Ivey have been trying to rebuild Lake Tchukolako for nearly two years after a dam failure left them high and dry.

Some people blame the leadership of the property owner's association for slowing down progress on the lake. Now, folks in Ivey hope a fresh start begins at the ballot box.

At 3 p.m. Wednesday at the Wilkinson County Courthouse, people in Ivey who have property in their name, have paid all of their membership dues, and are in good standing can come and vote for a new board. It's all in an effort to bring back the lake.

Lake Tchukolako used to be a sparkling body of water, but on May 1, 2020, the lake's dam breached. It's left people in Ivey with a lake covered in nearly two years worth of growth.

"I just took it for granted like everybody else did. It was here and we just thought it would always be here," said construction worker Phil Mills. 

Mills has called Lake Tchukolako his home for the last 41 years. He has been working to rebuild it ever since the dam broke. He says he spent more than $158,000 of his own money, adding two new floodgates and new piping.

"I felt like I could do something, so I went out and do all I could do," he said. "But, it didn't quite make it."

Mills says board leadership conflict caused them to lose grant money, delaying the rebuild, so another group of neighbors filed an injunction last year to establish new leadership for the neighborhood. 

According to a court order, Judge Terry Massey called a special meeting allowing the vote to take place.

"The board that we are trying to get now -- I think they will do an excellent job, I think they'll work together with the city. I think everybody will come together as a group. I can see it being a great place," Mills said.

"I plan to vote for whoever I think is going to do the best job. Get this water back," said Leigh Scott.

Scott is committed to getting the debt paid off. In the past year, with the help of the community, Scott's "Dam Team" has raised more than $84,000.

"Phil's heart is in the right place and my dam team's heart is in the right place, and we are going to get it back," Scott said. "It's just the question of how are we going to get the money to pay Phil."

After court Wednesday, they're hoping the City of Ivey will help them find a grant to pay for Phil and his team and rebuild the lake.

"I really think when we get the new dam built, it's going to control the water. It's going to have gates in it and everything it's supposed to, which we didn't have before," Mills said. 

On Saturday, they are having another lake clean-up day. You can meet them at noon at the lake's beach house on Lakeshore Drive South to help.

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