Gainesville officials say they are going to move forward on the design of a water treatment plant at the Cedar Creek Reservoir — with or without the county’s blessing.
Plans for the treatment plant have been on hold for months due to an impasse between city and county officials over the future of the reservoir.
And with no agreement at hand, the City Council directed Public Utilities Director Kelly Randall Thursday to seek out engineers who might design the facility that will make the lake a viable backup supply to Lake Lanier.
Answering a question from Mayor Pro Tem Danny Dunagan, Randall said finding an engineer could take about five weeks. The design, he said, will take about 11 months.
After the design is complete, Randall said city officials could re-evaluate whether to build the treatment facility.
“In a year from today, the world may look differently than it does today,” Randall said. “...I think we need to be cognizant that things are in flux and are moving, but if we do move forward with the design, that’s not a lost effort, because we’d be able to use it again in the future.”
State officials have appealed a July 2009 ruling in a legal battle over rights to Lake Lanier, but if the ruling is upheld, it could cut the county’s ability to withdraw water from Lake Lanier by more than half in July 2012.
And in that case, Cedar Creek is the county’s only backup supply.
But making it work is tricky. Gainesville owns the reservoir, but Hall County holds the permit needed to withdraw the water.
County officials have said they aren’t willing to hand over the permit unless the city is willing to give the county ownership of the reservoir — a gift city officials have said they aren’t willing to give.
County officials have said they need the reservoir, which they built with sales tax revenues, so they can sell the water in it to help pay for the construction of the planned Glades Reservoir. City officials were deeded the reservoir in a 2006 agreement along with the rest of the old Hall County water system.
Since September, neither side has been willing to compromise.
And on Thursday, Mayor Pro Tem Danny Dunagan implied that the city might wait for the county’s withdrawal permit to expire in 2012 and apply for its own permit.
Randall said his staff was ready to put out a request for proposals for engineers.
“There’s no reason to hold up that design for the permits,” Randall said. “And frankly, I would recommend that we do it.”
Randall said he felt moving forward with the design would be prudent to making sure Hall County has water in 2012.
Other council members agreed, but Councilman George Wangemann said he wished the city could move forward on the plant in harmony with the county. Councilwoman Myrtle Figueras said the community should not suffer for water because of a political issue.
“I just wish we could resolve this whole issue politically with the county,” Councilman George Wangemann said.
Dunagan responded: “We will, eventually.”