Gainesville City Council on Tuesday tabled a joint agreement that supports Hall County’s application to the state to fund Glades Reservoir.
Councilwoman Ruth Bruner said she would like to look at the recently updated application for $14.5 million in project funding for Glades. Councilwoman Myrtle Figueras was absent from last week’s work session when the agreement was presented by Public Utilities Director Kelly Randall. The item was tabled for at least 30 days, but less than 60 days.
Several speakers spoke against the agreement at the meeting, including Sally Bethea, executive director of the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, and Lauren Joy, an associate attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center.
The agreement stated Gainesville has reviewed and concurs with Hall County’s application to the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority because it won’t require water rate or fee increases of Gainesville water customers.
GEFA received the county’s revised application last week.
The original April application included a capacity fee and rate increases. The amended version takes those out and adds a $70 annual fee to each of the 75,000 taxed parcels of land in the county. Hall officials have said, and the application states, it’s one financing method being considered.
Glades Reservoir, which is estimated to cost about $130 million, is planned as a 850-acre reservoir in the Upper Chattahoochee River Basin of North Hall that could provide 30 million to 40 million gallons of water per day to Northeast Georgia residents, the application’s cover letter states.
Bethea said if the city approves the agreement, it would mean an open-ended endorsement of the project.
“Tonight the Gainesville City Council is being asked to just sign a little resolution, a little (memorandum of understanding)” Bethea said. “But if you approve it, I promise you it will be used over and over and over again in the next 10, 20, 30, maybe even 50 years to justify spending more and more money to build a very expensive reservoir that your constituents cannot afford, that isn’t needed and will significantly impact the Chattahoochee River system.”
Randall, who has seen the revised application and presented the agreement as a recommendation, said the county’s amended application to GEFA is better than the original because all of Hall County will benefit from the reservoir, not just Gainesville water customers.
“I think truly where the county’s thinking is, if it’s going to benefit the entire county, how do they best spread that across to everybody instead of just a select group who happens to be on the Gainesville system?”
Critics of the reservoir argued whether the reservoir is needed and how will it be paid for.
Joy, who spoke on behalf of Georgia’s Water Coalition, said she was pleased with the council’s decision. The coalition advocates wise statewide water management.
“I think it’s a really smart decision,” Joy said. “I think they need to spend some time really looking at the resolution and the pros and cons of supporting this project and, particularly, look at all the questions that are still unanswered.”