Gainesville City Council took another step forward Tuesday in building a new water treatment plant.
The council voted to allow Jordan, Jones and Goulding-Jacobs Engineering to draw up design plans for the water treatment plant at Cedar Creek Reservoir.
The council moved forward without discussion, already hashing out the details in a meeting last week. The company will start drafting the construction plans and specifications for the project, which will cost about $1.55 million.
The reservoir, located in East Hall, is the county’s only back-up supply of water if a July 2009 ruling limits access to Lake Lanier in 2012. However, the reservoir can’t currently treat the water.
On Thursday, Gainesville Public Utilities Department officials asked the council to move forward with the plant’s design, which would help set a timeline for completion before the 2012 deadline set by U.S. District Court Judge Paul Magnuson.
“July 2012 is getting closer and closer,” said City Manager Kip Padgett. “The intention of this is to start the design so it can be expanded to meet any plans for the future.”
In July 2009, Magnuson said Lake Lanier wasn’t authorized to be a source of drinking water and gave Georgia three years to negotiate the management of Lanier, have Congress reauthorize the reservoir or go back to withdrawal numbers equal to those in the mid 1970s.
Georgia has appealed the ruling, but local water officials are worried about Hall County’s reliance on Lanier and the responsibility of making up the difference for residents.
On Thursday, Mak Yari, engineering manager for Gainesville’s Public Utilities Department, said the timeline for construction of the water treatment plant depends on when the city can obtain a permit to withdraw water from the reservoir.
Hall County officials, who built the reservoir with county funds, still have a state permit to withdraw 2 million gallons of the reservoir’s water each day. The permit was left out of a 2006 contract passing the reservoir from the county to the city.
Since 2009, city and county officials have struggled over control of the permit as the city tries to move forward with the treatment plant and the county tries to ensure it can be used for the future Glades Reservoir.
“We’re having meetings on the staff level to talk about Glades and how it incorporates with Cedar Creek,” Padgett said Tuesday after the meting. “We know we have to have this treatment facility, and knowing that Glades is going to have a key role, we’re designing the facility so it can treat whatever needs the county has.”
It’ll take some negotiations, but city and county officials are “willing to work together,” said Tom Oliver, Hall County Commission chairman.
“I think we can sit down and work out something fair to the city and county residents,” he said. “Moving forward with the design is their prerogative, and I commend their leadership for doing this. It’s important that we do what’s best for both city and county residents.”