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Gainesville seeks to solve reservoir ownership issue
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Gainesville City Council members and Hall County commissioners are trying to take another step in determining Cedar Creek Reservoir ownership.

After an executive session Tuesday evening about real estate acquisition, Mayor Pro Tem Danny Dunagan announced the city will send a joint letter with the county to the state Environmental Protection Division to ask for non-binding mediation about who owns the reservoir.

"The mediation will specifically look at the permit and deed so we can move forward with Glades Farm, and we hope this will solve that issue," Mayor Ruth Bruner said after the meeting. "We can't build without a permit or deed, and we think it's implied in the documents that we own it. But the county does not agree."

Hall County officials, who built the reservoir with county funds, still have a state permit to withdraw 2 million gallons of the reservoir's water each day. The permit was left out of a 2006 contract passing the reservoir from the county to the city.

The City Council voted in July to allow Jordan, Jones and Goulding-Jacobs Engineering to draw up design plans for a water treatment plant at Cedar Creek. The reservoir, located in East Hall, is the county's only back-up supply of water if a July 2009 ruling limits access to Lake Lanier in 2012.

Since the 2009 ruling, city and county officials have struggled over control of the permit as the city tries to move forward with the treatment plant and the county tries to ensure it can be used for the future Glades Farm Reservoir.

Hall officials have said they need Cedar Creek Reservoir so they can sell water to other governments and help pay for the construction of Glades Reservoir as part of a system linked to Cedar Creek.

Glades Farm, which is planned on 850 acres in the northeastern part of the county, is slated to meet the water demands for Hall County, the city of Gainesville and Forsyth County for the next 50 years.

Under the 2006 agreement, city officials believe all assets with Cedar Creek were turned over to them. But the county argues it still retains ownership of the water withdrawal permit.

City and county officials discussed the mediation plan before the City Council meeting began Tuesday afternoon.

Both sides credit Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle with the idea for mediation.

"We plan to bring it up at our work session and feel very confident we're on the right track," Hall County Commission Chairman Tom Oliver said Tuesday evening. "I give the lieutenant governor all the credit. He was quite a statesman today. It was great to have his input. It's a positive area for Hall County and North Georgia."

Water is one of the most important issues facing Georgia today, Cagle said after the meeting.

"I applaud our forward thinking local leaders right here in Gainesville and Hall County for addressing this issue head on. Georgia must continue seeking creative means to meet our long-term water needs and I am encouraged by the progress I have seen here today,"  Cagle said.

Last week, county officials submitted a summary draft about Glades Farm plans to city officials, but the ideas are still vague.

"The staffs have looked at it, and it still doesn't make sense in how they plan to pay for Glades Farm," Bruner said. For months, she has called for a specific business plan from the county, and both city and county staffs have met to discuss the numbers.

"The summary talks about scenarios in five or 10 years once Glades Farm is built - the ‘what if,'" Oliver said.

"There are several scenarios and ideas that we put together. But whether it will hold true ... so many times we just have to have a starting point."

In other business at the City council meeting, the new trash ordinance and adult entertainment ordinance - hot topics for the city during the last few months - had first readings but no discussion.

 

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