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Flowery Branch OKs street light contract, road turnaround survey
Last year, the city's monthly street lighting bill was $2,552
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A Flowery Branch neighborhood's street light bill will be cut by more than half, thanks to City Council action Thursday night.

The council voted to approve a contract that allows Madison Creek subdivision to pay a governmental rate of about $15 per month per street light, compared to a monthly rate of nearly $35 it had been paying to Georgia Power.

"They (came) to government for a solution, and we're providing that in the short term," Councilman Kris Yardley said after the meeting. "The faster we act, the better off that we help them out."

The issue first came to the city's attention late last year when Madison Creek residents said they were paying Georgia Power Co. $34.71 per month for each of the subdivision's 18 street lights when the city is paying for that same amenity for others.

Council members later agreed to ask Mayor Mike Miller to meet with representatives from Georgia Power and the homeowners group to see if an agreement about rates could be worked out.

Georgia Power ended up offering a 14 percent reduction on a portion of the bill, with the discount being about $3 per month per light, City Planner James Riker reported to council Feb. 3.

Madison Creek, which is off Jim Crow and McEver roads, has a much better deal under the new contract, which calls for the city to take over the street lights and have the neighborhood pay the Georgia Power governmental rate, plus a 10 percent administrative charge.

Fred Richards, treasurer of Madison Creek's homeowners association, has said he appreciates the move but expects more out of the city.

"Our position is that, being taxpayers in the city, if the city is paying for street lights for some subdivisions, they should pay for all of them - if the subdivision has city streets -- or pay for none of them," Richards said.

"It's just that everybody should be treated fairly."

Councilwoman Tara Richards alluded to the fairness issue Thursday night.

"I'm not opposed to helping Madison Creek at all," she said. "I just think that we set a precedent for other communities that are in the same situation to come and say, ‘Here, take my street lights,' and we're suddenly in the lighting business."

The city is looking at crafting a street light ordinance to deal with the overall issue, one that officials have said would be designed to equally distribute the cost of street lights for all property owners on public roads.

Flowery Branch pays for 195 street lights, 26 of which are in Newberry Point and Portsmouth subdivisions, which don't have homeowners groups. Last year, the city's monthly street lighting bill was $2,552.

"The city historically has paid for street lights on public roads everywhere except for subdivisions where they have (a homeowners association)," Riker has said.

"In that case, the HOA historically has been responsible for those street lights."

In other business, the council voted to contract with Hayes, James & Associates of Norcross to do some surveying work related to a truck turnaround on Bragg Road. The fee is $750.

The city and Hall County are looking at eventually closing most of the dirt road, which runs between Capitola Farm and Blackjack roads beside the massive Sterling on the Lake subdivision.

Residents have complained about noise and dirt clouds from people racing on the road. City officials said people have used the road, which has been eroded over the years from heavy storms, for illegal dumping.

Plans call for keeping Bragg Road open between Capitola Farm Road and the one home on the road, then closing it the rest of the way to Blackjack.