By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Flowery Branch considers running South Hall sewer system
Hall received bids from a water, sewer company based in Tate
Placeholder Image

Flowery Branch officials continued to talk Thursday about the possibility of operating the South Hall sewer system.

Mayor Mike Miller, City Manager Bill Andrew and council members Chris Fetterman and Tara Richards met with Bob Troxler, the city's consulting engineer, on Wednesday morning to discuss the idea.

Miller announced his opposition to the move Wednesday afternoon, and several Flowery Branch City Council members weighed in with their opinions at Thursday's regularly scheduled council meeting.

"Offering a proposal like this could be a win for the taxpayer and a win for the Flowery Branch residents who bear the burden," Fetterman said. "The revenue could prevent (exorbitant) usage fees."

He added that when council members are facing the possibility of spending thousands of dollars on road repairs, they could look toward the general fund, a millage rate increase or a new source of revenue such as operating the sewer.

"If we went through with an intergovernmental agreement with Hall County, we would step up to the challenge. We have experts on our payroll," he said. "It would be a win-win, and we would be doing what we are charged to do."

The county issued a request for qualifications in February to maintain the 750,000-gallon-per-day water treatment facility, 13 pump stations and more than 2,000 customers.

The qualification process required detailed information about each company's staff, experience with similar sewer services, performance on past contracts and references for those similar services.

Hall County officials received bids from Environmental Management Services, a water and sewer company based in Tate that currently operates the system, and Engineering Management, a Lawrenceville-based company that works on plants in Braselton, Helen and Hiawassee.

"Based on the way the (request for proposals) was written, with personnel, insurance and liability that we can't afford and aren't willing to live with, we didn't submit an application or qualify," council member Tara Richards said Thursday.

"If we take on the liability but don't own the plant or have the right to raise rates and suddenly misjudge what it takes to run it, that debt goes to our general fund."

Richards called into question how much the county owes on the plant and how much users would actually save on their bill.

"We wouldn't want this to cause us to raise taxes," she said. "This would take a lot of serious thought about whether the liability is really worth it."

On Tuesday, Hall County Commissioner Craig Lutz suggested Flowery Branch enter the contest. He included Flowery Branch City Council members on an email he sent to a list of Flowery Branch residents, encouraging them to consider the idea.

Andrew, Troxler and council members will continue discussions in a meeting on Wednesday.

Hall County staff will hear presentations on April 20 from the two companies that submitted applications to the qualification process. A final recommendation will go to the Hall County Board of Commissioners in May. If commissioners reject both groups in May, then Flowery Branch could enter.

"Our staff is incredible and would be a great asset to running this, if it becomes a reality and if we choose to get there," council member Kris Yardley said Thursday.

"If they (Hall County) don't receive a credible bid opportunity, we should do what is in the best interest of the citizens to get the current utilities at the lowest possible price."

Regional events