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Your Views: Gainesville right to delay support of Glades project

POSTED: October 9, 2013 1:00 a.m.

Congratulations to the Gainesville City Council for postponing any action to support and fund the long-proposed and ever-changing Glades Reservoir. The council is smart to pause and ask important questions before committing support for Hall County’s $14.5 million application to the Governor’s Water Supply Program at the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority.

Approving the Joint Resolution and Memorandum of Understanding on the City Council’s Oct. 1 consent agenda would have been a blind endorsement and pledge of support for the application and other Glades permitting efforts.

Hall County has spent more than $14 million on costs associated with this project with little to show for it, mainly some land and a big stack of paid consultant invoices. The GEFA funds would propel a new round of spending that is likely to exceed $150 million before a drop of water is available.

Taking time to review the application will reveal a hodgepodge of outdated supporting documents, questionable projections and financial claims, and conflicting statements of cost.

While providing very little detail in the application, Hall County is proposing to pay for Glades through a menu of financing schemes. It may be SPLOST funds (a sales tax), or a sewer fund, or general revenues, or a flat annual fee leveled on every parcel of property in the county, regardless of size or worth.

The county’s application to GEFA is for something called State Direct Investment, where the state buys a specific interest in a project. Given the state’s strong interest in Glades Reservoir from the highest levels of government, why should Gainesville be rushed into burdening citizens with decades of financial support for what appears to be a development amenity lake? The state is capable of paying for what it wants.

Is Glades a Gainesville water project, a Hall County water project or a joint water project? What is the effect of the state’s financial investment in Glades? If it will be a state water supply project, why should it require local funding?

Why should more local tax dollars be committed for this project before the Corps of Engineers determines how much water supply is available for local interests? The Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Glades is almost ready. What will it contain that might inform a decision?

Common sense is what’s missing here. Hall County, on consultant advice, has declined to join Gwinnett, Forsyth and Dawson counties, and the Lake Lanier Association in encouraging a study to raise the lake level for increased water storage.

That consultant has ridden the Glades gravy train for more than $1.5 million. Oddly, the same consultant firm advised Gwinnett and the association that it supported that study.

Since April, most every time you’ve crossed a Lake Lanier bridge, you were looking down on a volume of water equal to one, two, or even three Glades Reservoirs sitting on top of the 1,071 feet of full pool. The Chattahoochee River watershed took care of that without costing taxpayers a dime. Common sense.

Bill Brooksher and Roger Nott
Gainesville


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