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Gainesville considers joint agreement with Hall on Glades

POSTED: November 19, 2013 12:08 a.m.

Gainesville is considering supporting Hall County’s planned Glades Reservoir if it won’t raise water rates for the city’s water customers.

Gainesville City Council is expected to take up a joint agreement with the county at its meeting tonight that’s similar to the agreement the council tabled last month.

Glades Reservoir, which is estimated to cost $130 million, is planned as an 850-acre reservoir in the Upper Chattahoochee River Basin of North Hall that could provide 30 million to 40 million gallons of water per day to Northeast Georgia residents.

The agreement from early October stated Gainesville had reviewed and concurred with Hall County’s application to the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority to help fund the project because it wouldn’t require water rate or fee increases of water customers.

Most Hall County residents have water service from Gainesville.

Hall’s application to GEFA for funding from the Governor’s Water Supply Program was approved earlier this month.

The Hall County application asked for slightly more than $14.5 million, but it could get up to $40 million. The final amount of state help will be negotiated with GEFA and officials with the Environmental Protection Division, said GEFA spokesman Shane Hix.

Public Utilities Director Kelly Randall said he and the county’s consultant adjusted some of the wording in the joint agreement based on some council members’ concerns with the original draft. He declined to be specific, saying it was related to the “tax issue” in the agreement.

Hall’s original GEFA application included a capacity fee and rate increases on water customers. The county later removed the rate increases and added a $70 annual fee on each of the 75,000 taxed parcels of land in the county in an amended application.

Hall officials have said, and the application states, it’s one financing method being considered.

“I think it has some merit to it,” Gainesville Councilman George Wangemann said of the joint agreement.

County Administrator Randy Knighton said the changes were “minor.”

Richard Mecum, Hall County Board of Commissioners chairman, said the city wanted some changes to the agreement the county approved at the end of September. Gainesville City Council will vote on the new joint agreement first, and then it will go back to the commission.

“If that’s what they want, fine, I agree with that,” he said. “But I don’t want the county to sign off on it because we did that last time. We thought we had something that everybody agreed on and then we signed off on it and sent it back to the city and the city then said ‘no.’”

The GEFA decision to directly fund four reservoir projects across the state marks a shift in how Georgia’s government has funded water projects. Historically, the state would lend local governments money to build reservoirs that meet local needs.

Gov. Nathan Deal’s administration has made a priority of investing in projects that give state government access to water it could send downstream to depleted waterways, particularly during droughts. That could be useful since Georgia has fought since 1990 with neighboring Alabama and Florida over regional water usage.

Besides Glades, the state is expected to allocate funding to Indian Creek Reservoir in Carroll County and Richland Creek Reservoir in Paulding County. Another $5 million is earmarked for a project testing water desalination in Coastal Georgia.


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