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Lula, Hall renew sewer talks

Negotiations continue over deal for sewer plant to serve Ga. 365 corridor

POSTED: August 24, 2013 12:14 a.m.

Lula and Hall County officials again are talking about partnering on sewer to service a new industrial area, though the county last month backed away from a previous agreement with the city to offer the service.

Lula officials confirmed they are currently in private negotiations with Hall County over a deal to provide sewer capacity to the Gateway Industrial Centre and the Ga. 365 corridor. County officials have declined to comment on the negotiations.

When Gateway’s first tenant, Georgia Poultry Lab, closed on its 10-acre site in the industrial center, the county committed to providing sewer service. Hall has to provide 500,000 gallons per day of sewer capacity within 36 months of October 2012.

“There have been continuing discussions,” Lula City Manager Dennis Bergin said.

Bergin said he hoped a letter he and Lula City Council sent to Hall officials dated Aug. 12 cleared the way for the current discussions. In that correspondence, Lula officials questioned the accuracy of some data used in a press release issued July 25 by county public information officer Katie Crumley.

The press release chronicled the commission’s decision that night to walk away from sewer negotiations with Lula, and stated it was cheaper for the county to build its own North Hall wastewater system.

“With our current (sewer) rates, Hall County will be able to provide a more economical sewer rate to our customers, therefore creating a more business-friendly environment for future development,” Commissioner Billy Powell was quoted as saying in the release. “This is a decision we’ve made carefully and thoughtfully ... it’s a wise investment that will benefit Hall County citizens in the near and distant future.”

In the aftermath of the July 25 vote not to partner with Lula for the sewer service, Powell declined to answer questions about the vote and the press release. Commissioner Scott Gibbs, whose district includes Lulu, also did not return phone calls to discuss the issue.

Crumley said Monday the county stands by the information given to the public in the press release, which she said was prepared by her in conjunction with Public Works Director Ken Rearden and Powell before the commissioners’ meeting. Data included in the release were provided by Rearden, she said.

Reardan has made several presentations to the county commission over the past several months while commissioners considered the options of partnering with Lula, Gainesville or constructing their own system.
In the press release, Hall County said one of the reasons it decided to suspend negotiations with Lula is the city’s new sewer rate structure.

Lulu officials, meanwhile, feel the county has misstated its rates and that sewer services through the city would actually be cheaper than suggested by data used by the county.

The county originally voted to build its own plant in November, then reconsidered in February after new members Jeff Stowe and Chairman Richard Mecum joined the board. The commission voted in February to use Lula’s plant, but decided to install about 5 miles in pipeline from a county-built pump station up Ga. 365 to Ga. 52. In July, the county again decided to construct its own plant.

Crumley agreed Tuesday to set up an interview with Rearden, but the interview was canceled the next day. Rearden declined to answer questions Tuesday at the commission work session.


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