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Hall County wants a second look at water rates
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Hall County may take a deeper look into water rates.

At Monday’s work session, Public Works Director Ken Rearden asked the Hall County Board of Commissioners to fund a review of a water and wastewater rate study prepared for Gainesville.

The goal of the study would be to determine if users are paying an accurate amount for the services and assets they use. County users pay twice that of city users.

Rearden said the study might look at, for example, how much Hall County users are paying for sewer infrastructure.
“Is that fair or not for unincorporated Hall County?” Rearden said.

The commissioners will wait until after the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce’s issues committee meeting April 21, where city and county officials will provide an update on plans for Hall County’s future water supply.

“We need to look at the value of the Cedar Creek water and see how that’s going to affect the differential of rates,” Commissioner Steve Gailey said.

“There’s a lot more involved than just A to B,” Chairman Tom Oliver said.

Commissioner Bobby Banks did not take to the idea of funding the study.

“We’ve always paid double,” Banks said. “I just think we’re wasting money to do a study on city of Gainesville rates.”

A 2006 agreement between Gainesville and Hall County — the same one that dedicated the county’s water system to the city — calls for each to conduct studies that ensure residents are paying fair tax and water rates.

The agreement, signed by most of the current members of the two bodies, calls for the city to study how water rates should be calculated for city and out-of-city residents.

It also calls for the county to evaluate what property taxes Gainesville residents pay to the county for services the city provides.

But Gainesville Public Utilities Director Kelly Randall said at twice the city rate, what county customers pay is less than it should be. The most recent study concluded that county water users should pay 2.13 times that of city customers.

“The city has had the county at the table every time,” Randall said. “We’ve never done a differential study without the finance director from the county or the Public Works director for the county.”

The disagreement over water rates is an old one.

“Back in the late ’90s there was a big issue about double water rates and double taxation,” Randall said. “The city and county came to an agreement that they would hire a consultant, jointly selected, to do a differential study and to do a tax equity study and periodically do them every couple of years.”

Rearden said hiring a consultant to review the study would be beneficial before the city and county sit down for the next study in a few years.

“We’ll have a report based on the county’s guidance to review this and give the commission at least some ideas of where Gainesville’s studies and their costs are coming from,” Rearden said. “In our proposed agreement with the Cedar Creek (reservoir), we have that clause in that agreement as well.”

Staff writer Ashley Fielding contributed to this report.

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