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Hall, Lula sewer talks hit roadblock

POSTED: September 12, 2013 12:51 a.m.

Lula officials say they’re still open to partnering with Hall County to provide sewer to the Gateway Industrial Centre and the Ga. 365 corridor, but frustration is growing among some involved.

Another attempt to agree on a contract broke down Tuesday afternoon after about three hours of discussions, county and city officials confirmed Wednesday afternoon. Some county commissioners had hoped to vote on a sewer agreement at the Hall County Board of Commissioners’ meeting this evening.

Richard Mecum, commission chairman, said the county engineers and lawyers had gotten bogged down in some of the contract’s language. He declined to elaborate.

“We had hoped to bring it up (today), but the way it’s going right now, I don’t think we’re going to make it,” Mecum said.

Lula City Manager Dennis Bergin said he is due to talk with the county this morning. It’s possible the parties may come up with a last-second compromise for consideration at the meeting, but it’s not the first time talks have broken down. The county walked away from talks in July, saying it could provide cheaper sewer by doing so alone.

The commission’s agenda for tonight doesn’t mention a sewer contract with Lula.

“My issue is the same as always,” Lula Mayor Milton Turner said. “We’ve done all the conceding and nothing has been conceded by the county.”

In contention is a clause that Hall commissioners didn’t like in the original agreement that stated if the county didn’t build a wastewater plant within 10 years of the agreement, Lula would service all the wastewater for the Ga. 365 area.

Hall rewrote the clause to say it may stop using Lula capacity and divert it to its own plant if it builds one. However, the county would pay Lula if the flow was diverted, Bergin said.

Turner said there may be a concern of legality with the current verbiage. Mecum declined to identify what the issues were in the new agreement.

Bergin said Hall staff reworked the clause, but it has now received some resistance from some commissioners. He said Lula told the county to come up with wording that would work.

“All that needs to be done is to ensure if the city makes investments in operations as a plant on their behalf, we just can’t lose money if they all of a sudden turn around and divert their flow someplace else.”

Mecum said he was going to work on alternative wording Wednesday afternoon to attempt to develop verbiage more acceptable to the commission.

Turner said if no updated agreement is approved, both parties are still subject to the 2006 sewer agreement.

The 2006 agreement spelled out the sewer service area for Lula and allowed the county to purchase 100,000 gallons per day of capacity in the plant. The county said in an April 25 email from Ken Rearden, county public works and utilities director, it wanted to renegotiate a new contract to take the place of the 2006 agreement.

“There is an agreement in place,” Turner said. “They just don’t want to honor it.”

Bergin said he didn’t think the two governments were at a giant impasse and said he also thought they were close to a deal. There may be other issues, but this is the only one of significance, he said.

“I thought we had a deal once before; at least in July I thought we had a deal done,” Bergin said. “We still remain open to making this thing fly.”


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