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Hall's price tag mounting for Glades Reservoir

Cost now at $15M; sales tax funds spent to finalize reservoir project

POSTED: July 13, 2014 12:00 a.m.

With the delay of a draft environmental impact statement, costs continue mounting with no end in sight for the proposed Glades Reservoir.

While taxpayers are footing the bill, businesses are seeing a financial windfall.

On Thursday, the Hall County Board of Commissioners approved extending a consulting agreement with Joe Tanner & Associates for an additional year in the amount of $130,000.

The board also approved an additional $650,000 in payments to AECOM, the firm contracted by the Army Corps of Engineers to complete the statement.

These payments, funded through special purpose local option sales tax funds, will bring the total spent by Hall County on the Glades Reservoir to more than $15 million.

AECOM alone has received more than $4 million while Joe Tanner & Associates has received about $770,000.

But costs for Glades are likely to continue rising.

In April, a lease agreement was extended that shifts the responsibility for permitting and construction of the reservoir to the county, and commits the county to paying $4.5 million to Glade Farm within 120 days of receiving the necessary permit for construction.

“County taxpayers are now on the hook ... for a reservoir project that may never be permitted,” Sally Bethea, executive director of the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, told The Times in an email. “And the tab is still open with very little to show for the money.”

Supporters say the proposed 850-acre Glades Reservoir in the Upper Chattahoochee River Basin will add about 40 million gallons per day to the water supply of Northeast Georgia at an estimated $130 million cost to Hall County.

Glades is eligible for up to $40 million in funding from the Governor’s Water Supply Program.

Hall County Commissioner Craig Lutz said this money is badly needed to pay for the construction of Glades if a permit is issued. There is not enough SPLOST or general fund money to pay it off otherwise.

“If you’re a poker player, you could say we are pot committed,” he said.

But there is some debate now emerging about whether SPLOST VI money was ever intended for Glades.

Resident Bill Brooksher addressed that issue at the Board of Commissioners meeting, expressing his concern the county was pouring too many taxpayer dollars into the proposed project.

A review of the SPLOST VI project list posted on the county’s website makes no mention of Glades, though officials contend it’s included in the “other sewer/water improvements” line item.

Hall County Public Works Director Ken Rearden said he expects the draft statement to be finished sometime this fall after being pushed back once more last month, though the Army Corps of Engineers has yet to confirm this timeline.

Rearden added a final environmental impact statement and a decision from the corps on whether to issue a permit for the project will likely happen next summer.

Several commissioners have said the latest delay of the draft statement shows federal agencies are doing their due diligence.

But Lutz said it reflects burdensome regulations.

“The federal regulations we are having to deal with are ridiculous,” he said.

Opponents of the project have said Hall County has been remiss in providing the necessary information to federal authorities, thus causing the delay.

“Three years after the county submitted its permit application, federal agencies say they still do not have enough information to evaluate Glades Reservoir,” Bethea said. “We do not believe this amenity lake for real estate development can be justified economically or environmentally.”


PIRG: July 13, 2014 4:13 p.m.

"Other sewer and water improvements." You've got to be kidding me! With a 130 million dollar price tag, they justify it with "other sewer and water improvements? Are they going to use this same "other sewer and water improvements" rationale to continue the funding with SPLOST VII? That raises a whole lot of questions. Who is really benefiting from this project? Who are the property owners that will be adjacent to the Glades Reservoir if this project ever is completed? What kind of criteria does the county use to justify any SPLOST? If I wanted to have my water lines dug and tapped on the Gainesville water lines, I could call it "other sewer and water improvements" as well. What kind of ties does this Joe Tanner and Associates have with the BOC? The same can be asked about AECOMM as well. 4.5 Million to Glade Farm with the issuance of a permit? Mr. Lutz is trying to shift blame to the burdensome regulations. Playing the blame game to say the least. I think it is time for this BOC to hold a public meeting and answer some of these questions publicly. Some of our former commissioners and Chairman was in on this project as well. I doubt if they would appear at any public hearing called by the current BOC. What alternative is there then? A Federal Grand Jury inquiry.

lakeman1: July 13, 2014 4:52 p.m.

Its all about being a part of the "good old boy" network and feeding from the trough. Joe Tanner & Associates is a big player in Georgia politics because its players have had the power. Tanner was a prior commissioner with DNR. His staff is: Harold Reheis, a former director of the state Environmental Protection Division, David Word a former assistant EPD director and former EPD Director Allen Barnes. They all weild considerable power and are strong supports of gov. Deal.

The Glades Project is so wroght with special interests that the Corps would be on really thin ice if it approved the permit. What will restore the balance to Georgia politics will be if Deal is ousted and Carter is elected governor. My hopes are that it would then take a long time for the graft to rebuild before another shift in power become necessary.

PIRG: July 13, 2014 5:34 p.m.


Can you or any other reader supply any further information for an inquiring mind?

lakeman1: July 13, 2014 6:41 p.m.

Try this

comment: July 13, 2014 7:43 p.m.

Don't forget the 53 plus million SPLOST dollars spent on the "Mulberry Creek Regional Collection System" and the miles of sewer lines run all over Chestnut Mountain - which were never brought on line and sit idle today. That was taxpayer money thrown away - to enhance the property value of a former "commissioner". Look at it on the map - it's not hard to figure out.

SPLOST - the gift that just keeps giving.

Vote NO on any future SPLOST - why tax yourselves more? It's our opportunity to send a message.

comment: July 13, 2014 7:55 p.m.

I forgot to mention the 21 plus million dollars of SPLOST funds spent on the "Cedar Creek Reservoir" which sits idle to this day and has never produced an ounce of treated drinking water - and probably never will.

SPLOST - the gift that just keeps giving.

comment: July 13, 2014 7:57 p.m.

Both projects were - "sewer and water improvements"

For who?????

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