Gainesville’s public utilities department is moving forward with plans to improve water mains along 17 roads across the county.
Most roads are outside of the city limits and include small cul-de-sacs. Changes to the mains will start during the second week of January and take about nine months to complete, said Joel Altherr, who presented the request to Gainesville City Council members Friday.
The improvements will occur along small neighborhood roads, including Harvard View Court off Mount Vernon Road, Oak Creek Drive off Sardis Road and Oliver Crest Drive off Clarks Bridge Road. The council will vote on the request Tuesday.
“All of these roads are in the unincorporated areas,” council member Bob Hamrick noted. “Over the years we’ve spent millions improving service delivery, and all of this is coming out of our revenue that the department has gained. Sometimes we’re asked why we charge the service fee that we charge, and here we’re trying to improve service in unincorporated areas.”
State Rep. James Mills asked about the city’s service fee at last week’s Eggs & Issues breakfast, noting that the account service fee is double for county residents. City officials agreed that the differential is not “fair,” and they’re working to gradually even out the cost.
“The original purpose of the account servicing fee is to pay for operations, and the city and county began discussing this last April,” Kelly Randall, director of public utilities, told Mills later that afternoon. “It’s a $3.7 million issue, and it’s not something we can just fix.”
The fee, originally created to be based on the distances driven to check meters throughout the county, is now outdated with technology that allows for drive-by and aerial checks.
“I hope this will be heard by commentators at the last Eggs & Issues breakfast,” councilwoman Myrtle Figueras said Friday about the improvements.
The city received nine bids and chose Strickland & Sons Pipeline at the lowest bid of $733,011 to replace three miles of 2-inch galvanized pipelines. The bid falls below the projected cost of $850,000.
“This will benefit the customers by improving the quality and capacity and pressure of their lines,” Altherr said. “This will also bring 16 fire hydrants to new locations around the county.”
The public utilities department started using Georgia Environmental Finance Authority dollars for improvements 14 years ago.
Now the department will use the Public Utilities Capital Projects Fund for this project.
“While the public utilities department will continue its goal of replacing galvanized 2-inch lines, it will be on an as-needed basis,” Altherr said. “In the future, improvements will be done in conjunction with annual water main extensions in our capital improvements program.”