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City to reduce water withdrawal
Car washes get little reprieve
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And so a new wave of watering restrictions washes over Gainesville.

The Gainesville City Council approved a resolution that tightened the already taut watering restrictions Tuesday night at its first council meeting of November.

The City Council approved a new drought response plan and an ordinance that changes the fines for watering ban violators.

Gainesville’s Public Utilities Director Kelly Randall presented the new drought response in the form of a resolution. He had previously presented the list of recommendations to the council at its Thursday work session.

Randall said the added restrictions were in order because of the area’s drought and impending water crisis.

The pressure to pinch came shortly after Gov. Sonny Perdue mandated that Northeast Georgia municipalities shave off 10 percent of their average water use between December 2006 and March 2007.

The mandate, effective this past Thursday, reduced Gainesville’s water withdrawal permit to 15.82 million gallons per day, a permit that once allowed Gainesville 35 million gallons of water on a peak day.

However, Randall said the response to the immediate crisis must have long-term conservation in mind.

"I think we need to be looking at an eye to the future as to ‘how do we want these businesses to really change,’" Randall said. "It’s not going to be business as usual in the 10 years coming as it was in the 10 years before. Let’s give people an opportunity to adapt to the new realities instead of being forced out of business."

For that reason, there were some changes to the list from Randall’s Nov. 1 presentation.

The new, approved list still limits commercial car washing to car washes that recycle, but it allows car washes that do not recycle time to continue operating if they show they have reduced their use by 10 percent while they develop a plan to recycle water.

"This is really kind of a change, because I’ve realized how many (car washes that do not recycle) really are out there," Randall said.

Randall said he made the change after speaking with car wash owners around Gainesville. Some car wash owners told Randall that they would rather close one day out of the week to help the city save water then have to shut down their businesses altogether, Randall said.

"This will allow those businesses the opportunity to really come around and put in a recycle program, rather than waking up tomorrow morning finding out that their business in essence has been banned," Randall said. "I think it’s the fair thing to do, I think it’s the right thing to do."

The limitation includes automobile sales lots, automobile rental companies, equipment maintenance fleets and commercial truck fleets. However, the indoor vehicle washing automobile manufacturers require of dealers when they receive the vehicles will be allowed, as well as the indoor washing that is necessary to perform vehicle body work and immediately before the vehicle’s delivery to the customer.

Former Gainesville City Councilman Mark Musselwhite was the only member of the public to comment on the resolution before the city council voted unanimously to approve it.

Musselwhite commended Gainesville city officials for their work on the drought response, but told them to be careful about their comments and their actions because they affected a lot of people and their jobs.

Musselwhite also said he did not understand why his car wash was considered outdoor water use, because it has a roof and two walls.

"If you cut the water off at my car wash, I don’t know what I’m going to do," Musselwhite said.

The council also approved an ordinance that increases penalties for watering violations and eliminates warnings for first-time violators. From now on, first-time violators of the watering ban will receive a $50 surcharge on their water bill, and subsequent violators will receive a $200 surcharge and have their service terminated.