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The latest on Flowery Branch-Gainesville sewer agreement
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Flowery Branch City Hall - photo by Scott Rogers

Update: An agreement between Gainesville and Flowery Branch that would help shore up Flowery Branch’s sewer capacity was approved by the City Council Thursday, Jan. 5.

The agreement now goes before Gainesville City Council on Jan. 17, City Manager Tonya Parrish said.

“This is an interim measure to allow us to continue issuing sewer taps, hopefully,” Parrish told the council.

Original story: Flowery Branch may get some help from Gainesville as the South Hall city tries to work out its sewer capacity woes.

An agreement between the two cities calls for Gainesville to treat up to 400,000 gallons per day of sewer through Dec. 31, 2028, the document states.

Flowery Branch is seeking relief as the plant is “near capacity in its existing wastewater treatment plant,” according to the city. “City staff has been looking for alternative ways to allow for additional wastewater treatment while plans and construction of the new plant are underway.”

The city has been looking to expand sewer capacity from 900,000 gallons per day to 2.2 million gallons per day, but plans for an immediate project were derailed when bids came in way over budget.

The City Council voted in December to reject bids from earlier this year and pursue hiring a “construction manager at risk,” or a contractor who would “work very closely with the city and the city’s engineer” in a new design and construction of the project.

A low bid of $52 million earlier this year for the project budgeted at $23 million “was going to dictate not a few dollars increase in sewer bills but a significant … increase,” said City Councilman Joe Anglin.

The Gainesville sewer capacity would cost the city up to $1.8 million, "if we used everything allowed, which is very unlikely," City Manager Tonya Parrish said

She added, “We will be able to pay for any usage with our current rate structure."

The agreement is set to come up for a vote at the council’s meeting Thursday, Jan. 5.

With the construction manager at risk, cost estimates “will be given during the design phase, and the contractor will provide a guaranteed maximum price” when the project is 80% designed, according to a city document.

That price “represents a cost threshold that the construction manager is contractually bound to honor,” according to Indeed, an online jobs site. “Should the project exceed this threshold, the construction manager, not the owner, is financially liable — hence the ‘at risk’ component of (the job title).”

Flowery Branch has been working on the issue since August, after the bids were opened.

The council directed city officials at the time to stop accepting sewer applications until the future becomes clearer. “We have to slow this train, to be able to take a breath for a moment and get this figured out,” Parrish said at the time.

Flowery Branch is growing fast, with development taking place across the city. The council has been served a steady diet of projects to consider in recent years, including large residential ones.

“For the most part, over the last two to three years, most of the (residential) growth has been high-density,” Trey Gavin, an engineer working with the city on the sewer project, told the council in August. “We’re seeing a lot of townhomes built, we’re seeing a lot of apartment complexes, and this puts more of a strain on our wastewater system.”

As for the higher project costs, he said, “We are seeing increases in costs for all materials and all equipment. Labor increases are staggering.”

Flowery Branch City Council

What: Considering of sewer agreement with Gainesville

When: 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 5

Where: Flowery Branch City Hall, 5410 W. Pine St.