Update: A $2 million sewer line that will boost Flowery Branch’s sewer capacity while a new plant is being built was approved by City Council Thursday, Feb. 2.
Original story: Flowery Branch’s sewer capacity woes could begin easing by this spring, as the city hopes to move forward soon with interim fixes and building a new line to Gainesville.
The fast-growing city has held off granting sewer applicants since August 2022, as sewer capacity was nearing the permitted 910,000 gallons per day. Further pinching the utility’s troubles was a budget-busting sewer plant project, with bids eventually being scrapped.
Flowery Branch City Council
What: Contract for new sewer line to Gainesville
When: 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 2
Where: Flowery Branch City Hall, 5410 W. Pine St.
Adding to the pain has been the state citing the city for violating standards on such items as water clarity and ammonia and phosphorus amounts at the existing plant off Atlanta Highway/Ga. 13, City Manager Tonya Parrish said Monday, Jan. 30.
Flowery Branch ended up having to pay an $11,000 fine in December, she said.
But now, if interim measures “work like we think they’re going to and if the line is being built to Gainesville, my hope is we can recommend to the council to open back up (for sewer applications) by the end of March, maybe April,” she said.
Those measures would include such things as more piping and aeration in the existing plant.
Parrish is expected to propose to Flowery Branch City Council on Thursday, Feb. 2, awarding a contract for the line to Gaineville “and to declare an emergency for this work to be completed,” according to a summary of the project.
The $2 million project involves a connection between Oakwood South Industrial Park off McEver Road near Flowery Branch and Flat Creek treatment plant in Gainesville, “with funding to be provided from system development charges,” according to a summary of the project.
The project could take about six months to complete, Parrish said.
Gainesville and Flowery Branch city councils approved an agreement for the connection earlier this month. The five-year agreement calls for 400,000 gallons per day in sewer treatment by Gainesville.
“We will be able to pay for any usage with our current rate structure,” Parrish has said.
The line will help tide over Flowery Branch until the new plant is built, which could take about three years, she said.
The city was considering a sewer plant expansion last year, until bids came in at $52 million and higher for the project budgeted at $23 million.
The City Council voted in December to reject the bids 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.
The original plan was to build a plant able to treat 2.2 million gallons per day. The new plan is for a new plant to handle 1.5 million gallons per day and “do a little bit of rehab on the old plant, so together we can have that 2.2 million gallons per day,” Parrish said.
As far as impact on ratepayers, charges have been going up annually for the past couple of years — including one that took effect Jan. 1 — to get ahead of the plant expansion.
Final project costs, financing and impacts on taxpayers won’t be known until the construction manager process is finished.