The Hall County Board of Commissioners agreed to the terms of mediation with the city of Gainesville over the Cedar Creek Reservoir Monday, selecting Chairman Tom Oliver and Commissioner Ashley Bell as the county’s representatives.
The pair will meet with representatives from the city of Gainesville and a professional mediator in hopes of reaching a compromise over the water rights and business plan for the reservoir. The two governments have not set a date.
Last week, the Gainesville City Council selected Mayor Ruth Bruner and Mayor Pro Tem Danny Dunagan to attend the nonbinding mediation and suggested the county send its top officials: Chairman Tom Oliver and Vice Chairman Scott Gibbs.
At Monday’s work session, Commissioner Craig Lutz suggested sending Bell in place of Gibbs.
Bell represents District 4, which encompasses most of Gainesville.
“Chairman Oliver obviously represents the whole county. This is a negotiation that is between the county and the city. Commissioner Bell for the most part represents the city of Gainesville,” Lutz said. “I really felt like if we were going to make this mediation successful, I thought we would be in better shape if we had the representative for the city of Gainesville working with the person who represents the whole county.”
Gibbs agreed to bow out of the negotiations.
“I felt like since we were negotiating with Gainesville, that’s his district and he ought to be involved in it,” Gibbs said.
Bell said he has already been speaking with City Council members to work toward an agreement.
“I’ve always looked at my seat on the commission as trying to be a bridge between the two,” Bell said. “There’s going to need to be some give and take and concessions on both ends. Hopefully we can go into mediation that’s targeted and focused.”
The two governments are struggling to agree on who has control of the water in the reservoir and the financial details of how it will fit into a larger system with the proposed Glades Reservoir.
The city and county agreed in September to nonbinding mediation at the request of Georgia Environmental Protection Division Director Allen Barnes and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle.
Barnes indicated at the time that he would not release the needs assessment letter the county needed to move forward with permitting of the planned Glades Reservoir until Gainesville and Hall County would agree to mediation over Cedar Creek.
Rather than build a separate water treatment plant at Glades, the county plans to pump the water from the Glades Reservoir into Cedar Creek Reservoir, where Gainesville will have a treatment plant and distribution lines. The city is the drinking water distributor for most Hall County residents.