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Hall County appoints utilities, public works director
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Listen to Ken Rearden, newly appointed Public Works and Utilities director for Hall County, discuss ideas for wastewater management.

Hall County Administrator Jim Shuler appointed Ken Rearden as Hall County’s new director of Public Works and Utilities on Friday.

Upon the retirement of former Hall County Public Works Director Doug Derrer, the public works department was restructured so that Rearden, the new director, will be responsible for public works as well as public utilities, including the management and development of county sewer projects.

Rearden, who is a Macon native, has more than 30 years of experience in engineering, public utilities and public works. For the past 10 years, Rearden has served as the assistant director of utilities for West Palm Beach, Fla., and has most recently served as the city’s assistant administrator who oversees utilities, public works, engineering and traffic.

Shuler said when he was reviewing possible candidates to fill the position for county director of public works and utilities, he envisioned an ideal candidate as one who had an uncommon background in both public works and utilities, as well as experience working with elected officials. He said Rearden’s insight into water and sewer solutions in Florida, combined with his experience in city government, painted him as a near-perfect fit for Hall County.

"We were looking for someone with experience who can come in here and develop an overall strategy for sewer," Shuler said. "(Rearden) understands sewer issues, and he has the experience that will be helpful to us. He’ll shed some new light on water and sewer issues up here."

Although Hall County does not currently have a utilities department, the county does contract with municipalities, such as Gainesville, Flowery Branch, Lula and Oakwood, for utility services, Shuler said. He added that water and sewer engineering is one of Rearden’s skills, and his knowledge will be put to use on the numerous sewer projects under county supervision.

There are two projects atop the list of Hall County sewer projects: increasing capacity at the recently acquired Spout Springs sewer treatment plant and continuing the Mulberry River sewer project, which aims to tie on to the Gainesville Flat Creek wastewater treatment plant.

Shuler said the county bought the Spout Springs sewer treatment plant in late December for $13.8 million from a private company to provide sewer to South Hall County.

Rearden will be in charge of overseeing the expansion of the plant’s capacity from 750,000 gallons to 2 million gallons.

The other big ticket sewer project through which Rearden will guide the county is the Mulberry River sewer project. Shuler said the project is about 10 percent under way and is at least 18 months from completion. He added that the county is also exploring opportunities to expand sewer service to Ga. 129 South, Ga. 365 North and along Winder Highway.

Rearden has won local and state awards in Florida, as well as national awards, for his work in public utilities. He won awards for the implementation of a water reclamation system in West Palm Beach, Fla., which treated raw sewage, dispersed it into nearby wetlands, and then reused the water after further treatment for drinking water.

Rearden said he plans to study the possibility of implementing a water reclamation program in Hall County.

"I sure think it’s something in general that Georgia needs to take a look at," he said.

But Rearden said he could bring many new ideas to Hall County for the more efficient use of public resources.

"I think I could bring some innovative ideas to Northeast Georgia for some resources that are basically being thrown away," Rearden said. "But first off, I think we’ve got to implement a wastewater master plan."

Rearden has worked closely with West Palm Beach Administrator Ed Mitchell for more than 10 years. Mitchell said Rearden left his fingerprints on most of the city’s great public projects and gained experience managing public works and utilities in West Palm Beach, a high-growth area similar to Gainesville.

Rearden came under fire in West Palm Beach in late September when the city’s water was contaminated with bacteria as the water treatment plant was being upgraded. Rearden said an old pipe caused the chlorination process in the plant to short-circuit, which led to a 10-day drinking water boil recommendation for city water customers.

Mitchell said that prior to the September incident, Rearden expressed an interest in returning to Georgia, where he has owned property in White County since 1999.

"I’m basically coming back home," Reardon said. "I’m a Georgia boy."

Shuler said Reardon will play a pivotal role in developing Hall County utilities and will take the helm of county public works and utilities on March 17.

"I’m anxious for him to get here," Shuler said.