Gainesville officials aren’t keen on joining the "North Hall Water Authority" proposed by Hall County, but have agreed to meet with county officials before moving forward with the construction of the Cedar Creek Reservoir.
Gainesville Mayor Myrtle Figueras said that the city will put plans for a water treatment plant at the Cedar Creek Reservoir on hold until the two governments can sit down together and address the county’s questions.
The county holds the withdrawal permit for the reservoir, but the city is in charge of the treatment and distribution of water throughout the county.
In a letter addressed to Hall County Commission Chairman Tom Oliver, Figueras wrote that the city will hold off on the water treatment plant, but has no interest in joining a North Hall Water Authority, as Oliver proposed in a Sept. 16 letter to the City Council.
"We do, as agreed to in the 2006 Water Agreement, take our responsibility to provide water service throughout all of Hall County quite seriously," Figueras wrote.
In a letter he wrote two weeks ago, Oliver asked the City Council to delay construction of a water treatment plant at the Cedar Creek Reservoir until the county and the city could jointly develop and understand a plan for water and wastewater demands in North Hall for the next 20 years.
Figueras responded that the city already has an understanding of the county’s water needs. The city’s Public Utilities Department spent $350,000 on such a study last year, Figueras wrote.
"As the purveyor of water for Gainesville and Hall County we believe we are moving in the right direction," Figueras wrote.
Although the city was in the process of finding engineers to design the water treatment plant at the Cedar Creek reservoir, Figueras said the city would put those plans on hold to make sure the two governments are on the same page.
In response to a federal ruling in July that threatens to reduce Gainesville’s ability to withdraw water from Lake Lanier by two-thirds, city officials have been gearing up to put the 143-acre Cedar Creek Reservoir to use. The reservoir, which currently lies unused in East Hall, could provide an added average of 7.3 million gallons of water per day to Gainesville’s water resources. City officials say they could have a water treatment plant built there in two and a half years.
"It is imperative that we are all on the same page; but, not lose (sight) of the fact that the judge’s order is before us. Time is of the essence," Figueras wrote.
Oliver was not completely satisfied with Figueras’ response. He said Tuesday that the City Council needs to recognize that the water withdrawal permit for Cedar Creek is in the county’s name.
"I think it’s time that the City Council recognize that no longer are they going to be able to provide utilities all over this county without Hall County’s involvement," Oliver said. "...To build a Cedar Creek treatment plant with no water makes no sense."
Oliver conceded the idea of a North Hall Water Authority, saying Tuesday that it is only important that the two governments come together on water issues.
City Manager Kip Padgett said he is waiting on County Administrator Charley Nix to set up a time for city officials and county officials to do just that, which Oliver said may be the best option.
"That might be the best way to handle it," Oliver said. "We’ll take the politics out of it."