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Hall keeps same sewer maintenance company
After putting out bids to weigh its options, the county decided to stay with EMS
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The same company will continue to manage Hall County's sewer system on Spout Springs Road.

The county issued a request for qualifications in February to maintain the 750,000-gallon-per-day water treatment facility, 13 pump stations and more than 2,000 customers.

Hall County officials received bids from Environmental Management Services Inc., the water and sewer company based in Tate that has operated the system since 2002, and Engineering Management Inc., a Lawrenceville-based company that works on plants in Braselton, Helen and Hiawassee.

Under a 3-2 vote, with Commissioners Craig Lutz and Ashley Bell opposed, the Board of Commissioners approved EMS for $231,120 per year, which is the same billing rate from the past three years. The total falls under the budgeted amount of $250,000 but was higher than EMI at $228,060.

"When I was running for office and on Flowery Branch City Council, we had some problems with the reused water application of that plant," Lutz said Monday.

"There was some algae buildup in the lines, which had the smell of hydrogen sulfide, and that got taken care of, but then last year there was the smell of sewage."

Processed and cleaned sewage is used on fields at Flowery Branch High School, Sterling on the Lake and other common areas.

"It's a good deal for the homeowners association because they pay a small fee for water compared to city of Gainesville water," Lutz said. "Having that out there has been a blessing, but it's had some problems, and the fact that I wasn't happy with the history of that firm was one of the main reasons why I didn't vote for it again."

When several Flowery Branch council members asked city staff to test the discharged water last year, it didn't fully comply with limits, Lutz said.

"They did fix that, but I was disappointed having water that didn't test in the limits," he said. "I do thank them for recognizing the fact that they had some deficiencies."

After Thursday's commission meeting, EMS managers approached each commissioner to address concerns and discuss better communication for the future.

"I'm encouraged that they are going to work to get those things corrected," Lutz said. "I'm looking forward to having a good relationship with them."

In early April, Lutz suggested Flowery Branch enter the bid contest. He included Flowery Branch City Council members on an email he sent to a list of Flowery Branch residents, encouraging them to consider the idea.

Mayor Mike Miller, City Manager Bill Andrew and council members Chris Fetterman and Tara Richards met with Bob Troxler, the city's consulting engineer, to discuss the possibility of operating the South Hall sewer system but decided not to move forward.

The qualification process required detailed information about each company's staff, experience with similar sewer services, performance on past contracts and references for similar services.

Miller and several council members didn't think the city should enter the bid process.

However, some residents still want to see some changes with the sewer plant.

"I want to express my disappointment in Craig Lutz for not fulfilling his campaign promise to provide a fair and equitable sewage rate when he had a three-step plan to reduce sewage fees," said Phyllis Mercer, a resident in the Village at Deaton Creek. "You need to focus on this issue and come back with a plan on sewage."