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Hall officials want more info on rail crossing before making next move
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The Hall County Board of Commissioners has decided not to extend an agreement at this time that would reserve sewer treatment capacity for the Sterling on the Lake subdivision for an additional 10 years.

More than 1,000 sewer taps have been sold for homes in the subdivision.

And, as part of the current agreement, the county has committed to reserving sewer capacity for 918 more taps as future expansion of the subdivision is likely.

Those remaining taps are worth about $7.344 million, according to Public Works Director Ken Rearden.

Under the existing agreement, which expires at the end of 2017, the county promised to reserve a certain level of sewer capacity for the subdivision when it purchased the Spout Springs Water Reclamation Plant back in 2007.

But when the recession hit, development of the subdivision slowed, which prompted discussion of extending the current agreement out to 2027.

“It is a little premature, I think,” Rearden said.

County officials agreed.

They said they would rather wait until the current agreement expires to see what remaining sewer capacity is needed for the subdivision.

“I don’t think we need to tie up capacity for (another) 10 years,” said Commissioner Jeff Stowe.

County officials appeared to agree that any extended agreement would come with a price tag, meaning reserving sewer capacity for the subdivision would no longer be free of charge.

“We’re seeing a lot of demand for sewer right now,” said Commissioner Billy Powell.

Joshua Silavent

The controversy over whether to close the Tumbling Circle railroad crossing continues unabated after the Hall County Board of Commissioners on Thursday night delayed a decision on abandoning the road.

County officials said they want to gather more information to bolster their case for keeping the crossing open despite an order from the Georgia Department of Transportation to shut it down.

County officials dispute the danger presented by the crossing and want to keep it open for public use.

Barricades were erected at the crossing last Friday, and Norfolk Southern Railway plans to place a permanent guardrail at the site next week.

Tumbling Circle can be used as a westward cut-through from Ga. 13/Atlanta Highway to Old Oakwood Road, which then leads to Mundy Mill Road to the south and Mountain View Road to the north.

Heading in the opposite direction, Tumbling Circle acts as an access point to exit 17 off Interstate 985.

In a June 2013 document, the GDOT reported that eight car-train crashes have occurred at the crossing over an unspecified period of time, with five fatalities resulting from these accidents.

But, according to accident reports from the Federal Railroad Administration obtained by The Times, nine collisions between cars and trains have occurred at the Tumbling Circle crossing since December 1997.

And there have been no fatalities as a result of these accidents.

County officials said the crossing is not being closed in the interests of public safety, as the DOT and Norfolk

Southern have stated, but rather in order to serve the railway’s bottom line by allowing trains to increase their speeds.

The rail line is part of a heavily traveled main route linking Washington, D.C., with Atlanta.

On a typical day, 25 to 30 trains pass over the Tumbling Circle crossing, including Amtrak passenger trains, according to Norfolk Southern spokesman Rick Harris.

County officials have asked Hall County Fire Services to study the impact on public safety and medical emergency operations if the crossing is closed.

They also asked for information about other railroad crossings in the county that, like Tumbling Circle, lack proper safety devices, such a crossbars and flashing lights.

County officials want to know how many car-train collisions have occurred at other crossings over the last five years.

County officials also said they believe closing the crossing will have a negative impact on local schools, which could use the Tumbling Circle crossing as a bus route so long as proper safety devices are installed.

A new elementary school is planned nearby.

The Board of Commissioners will take up the matter again at its Nov. 13 meeting.