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Flowery Branch council gives its approval for sewer agreement

POSTED: December 18, 2008 5:00 a.m.

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FLOWERY BRANCH — Over the vocal protests of two councilmen, the Flowery Branch City Council voted Wednesday morning to OK an agreement with Hall County regarding the Spout Springs Water Reclamation Facility.

The agreement calls for Hall County to provide sewer service to parts of South Hall, including the massive Sterling on the Lake subdivision now within Flowery Branch’s service area off Spout Springs Road.

Allen Bryans Sr., Pat Zalewski and Mary Jones voted for the measure.

The council’s two Sterling residents, Chris Fetterman and Craig Lutz, voted against it.

Lutz said a rate study shows that the 1,500 residents served by the plant, including 500 now living in Sterling, would pay $79 per month for 6,000 gallons of sewer, plus an administrative fee of $7.26, up from $42 per month that residents are paying for the service.

"That is an exorbitant amount of money," he said.

Lutz tried in two motions before council to put off the vote until at least after the Hall County Board of Commissioners consider the agreement at its meeting tonight.

He said he wanted the council "to sit down with the county and preferably Oakwood and Braselton and ... iron out all the sewer issues for South Hall County."

Oakwood has teamed with Braselton in an $8 million project that will bring 2.5 million gallons per day to Oakwood, with lines running along Ga. 53/Winder Highway. Construction could begin next year with completion possible by 2010.

"The only opportunity we have to negotiate with Hall County is before we sign this agreement," Lutz said. "Once we sign this agreement, it’s done. It’s over. It’s not our responsibility anymore."

He got the support of Fetterman for the delay, but Bryans, Zalewski and Jones were opposed.

"I am not going to vote to push it back," Jones said. "I’m going to vote to move it forward."

Bryans said: "The fact is Flowery Branch never serviced Sterling. ... (And) the EPD will not allow you to duplicate sewer services."

"Sterling on the Lake is in our service district," Fetterman said.

He further said: "I have yet to see (sewer rates), so us coming before the rate structure (being set) and saying, ‘Yeah, Hall County, let’s do it,’ that’s ready-fire-aim kind of stuff."

Fetterman said he believes the city "needs to look out for the future 2,000 homes in Flowery Branch."

Sterling’s developer, Newland Communities, recently got the city’s OK to add up to 200 homes to the development. Newland now can build up to 1,964 homes on the nearly 1,000-acre site.

Finally, Jones called for a motion to approve the agreement. When Mayor Diane Hirling asked who on the council was opposed, Fetterman threw up his hand and said, "Vehemently."

The sewer plant has a relatively new history.

Hall County bought it in December 2007 from a private company for nearly $14 million, with the county now going through a permitting process.

As part of that task, the state Environmental Protection Division required Hall to get Flowery Branch’s permission before it provides service in the city limits.

In addition to Sterling on the Lake, the plant also serves Reunion and The Village at Deaton Creek communities in South Hall.

Ken Rearden, Hall’s director of Public Works and Utilities, couldn’t be reached for comment.

Tom Oliver, chairman of the Hall County Board of Commissioners, wrote to Hirling in a Nov. 25 letter that Hall County "has planned and is implementing construction necessary for sewer lines and pump stations to provide sanitary sewer service" in a South Hall area designated as Hall’s sewer service area.

A letter that was handed out to council members shows that Braselton Mayor Pat Graham has taken issue with the county’s boundary lines.

"A portion of the area you indicate the county wishes to serve is within the town’s sphere of influence," said Graham in a Monday letter to Oliver.

"Please allow this letter to confirm that (Braselton) has not consented to such service," she said.



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