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Hall County makes split decision on Ga. 365 sewer

Commissioners vote to use Lula plant, build own infrastructure

POSTED: February 15, 2013 12:13 a.m.

The Hall County Board of Commissioners approved partnering with the city of Lula to provide sewer treatment service to the Gateway Industrial Centre under development and the Ga. 365 corridor, but it decided to build its own infrastructure.

In a sort of split decision, the commissioners will use Lula’s treatment facility, but the county would install about 5 miles of pipeline from a county-built pump station up Ga. 365 to Ga. 52. The county had been considering offers from the cities of Lula and Gainesville or developing its own system in North Hall. Last year, it voted to build its own system, but has reconsidered in hopes of attracting some economic development to the site if it moved faster. Some members of the board also have changed since that vote.

“Lula was the only option that met that timetable in getting sewer up there in 12 to 15 months,” Commissioner Jeff Stowe said. “Also in cost, they (were) the cheapest option compared to the county going on its own or us doing it ourselves to meet that timeline.”

The vote was 4-1, with Commissioner Billy Powell voting against. He said he favored the Gainesville option because the city operates one of the best sewer systems in the state and it offers no upfront cost to county taxpayers. He said that the county would pay additional costs by going with Lula.

“Gainesville pays everything to get us up and going,” Powell said. “And their investment, which I believe is a little more than $6 million, is paid back by the people that hook up to the sewer; part of their sewer rate would go to pay Gainesville back.”

Chairman Richard Mecum said the cost of putting in the pipeline is estimated at $2.4 million. Commissioner Scott Gibbs and Jessica Robinson, county programs and grant manager, raised the idea of paying for the infrastructure costs by applying for state and federal grant money. That doesn’t include sewer capacity.

Tim Evans, vice president of economic development for the greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, has said there is a company considering that area, but it requires sewer service in a 15-to-18-month time frame. The county agreed to provide sewer service to the industrial park within 36 months when the Georgia Poultry Laboratory closed on its property there last year.

Commissioner Craig Lutz said he worried that industries would consider Gainesville’s utility rates high and that would be a roadblock to economic development. Lula charges $4.33 per 1,000 gallons. Gainesville had proposed a rate of $7.26 per 100 cubic feet, which equals 748 gallons. Gainesville’s rate included $3.85 per ccf to pay down the county’s capital costs on infrastructure.

“The county has made a significant investment in the area that we’re trying to recoup sooner than later,” Lutz said.

Lula officials have said they will allow Hall County to own and operate its system.


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