Last week, Hall County was trying to hammer out a deal on sewer with the city of Lula; this week, it’s talking to the city of Gainesville.
Hall needs to provide the Gateway Industrial Centre in North Hall with sewer capacity within 36 months of when the first tenant closed on its property there. Georgia Poultry Lab closed on its site in the 518-acre industrial park in October 2012.
Gainesville City Manager Kip Padgett confirmed that officials with the city and the county met Wednesday to discuss sewer service to the Ga. 365 corridor, which includes Gateway. He said they discussed concepts.
However, Lula appears to still be a contender. Richard Mecum, Hall County Board of Commissioners chairman, called Lula City Manager Dennis Bergin on Tuesday about getting the City Council to vote on an agreement discussed last week. The county commission almost voted on the intergovernmental agreement last week, Mecum said.
“See, we had an agreement this past Thursday that I had three votes on and another issue came up,” Mecum said. “I was going to have a vote on it last Thursday night and then something else popped up.”
Instead of voting on the Lula agreement, commissioners approved county staff pursuing all sewer options and reporting back to the commission within two weeks.
What “popped up” was a new proposal for county officials to consider, the chairman said. Mecum declined to say who the proposal was from.
“We had somebody come in with an offer,” he said. “And made some changes in their original proposal.”
There were three original proposals that Hall County has considered during a nearly yearlong search for best option to give sewer capacity to the Ga. 365 area. One option was for the county to do it itself, one was from Lula and one was from Gainesville.
Bergin said there was no new proposal from Lula. Padgett declined comment.
“In our case, we continue to stay committed,” Bergin said. “We think we remain an excellent value back to the county and to the taxpayers.”
Gainesville Mayor Bob Hamrick said Tuesday the City Council hadn’t really discussed partnering with the county on sewer. Hamrick and newly appointed Councilman Curtis Segars said they were open to the possibility.
Councilman George Wangemann said City Attorney Bubba Palmour had asked the council members not to say much on the topic. Palmour said he gave that advice because the issue was potentially related to a real estate transaction. He declined to say what real estate transaction because the information is exempt under the Open Records Act.
The county has talked with Gainesville “all along,” Mecum said. Bergin said he was unaware of that.
Gainesville’s proposal earlier this year was to enhance its pipeline from station 26 to White Sulphur Road and then build pipe infrastructure along the Ga. 365 corridor to a north pump station at the industrial center, The Times reported in January. Gainesville would finance the cost of the infrastructure and water capacity and would use debt service payments to pay off the project’s expense. If the county opted out in the next 10 years, it would have to repay the pro rata share of the costs the city incurred.
In January, Lula had proposed two operational options for the county and two sewer infrastructure options. The preliminary cost to hook up the industrial park to the city’s wastewater treatment plant would be about $1.9 million and that included a pump station and force main infrastructure. Lula also offered a preliminary cost estimate for a regional pump station and gravity sewer infrastructure of $2.35 million. Hall County would have the option of operating and maintaining the infrastructure or leaving it to the city to manage.
In February, the commission approved using Lula’s wastewater treatment plant, but creating its own sewer infrastructure from a county-built plant up the Ga. 365 corridor to Ga. 52.
After the commission chose partnering with Lula in February, the county decided it wanted to rewrite the parties’ 2006 agreement. Since then, there have been several changes to the contract.