Hall County Board of Commissioners
When: 6 p.m. Thursday
Where: Georgia Mountains Center, 301 Main St. SW, Gainesville
As Hall County continues its effort to build Glades Reservoir as a new water source for Northeast Georgia, taxpayer money for the project continues to spill out before ground is even broken.
On Monday, the Hall County Board of Commissioners signaled approval to renew but revise the county's deal with consultants for the next phase of gaining permitting for the project.
Those consulting costs will be slashed by $25,000 a month from previous agreements, according to county documents. Still, the move comes as some commissioners bemoan the progress of consultants to date, who are charged with getting the county's paperwork in place to begin construction.
Commissioner Ashley Bell said he was happy the costs were dropping but is disappointed Hall still didn't have its permit to begin work.
"The results have been costly but they haven't brought the deliverables," Bell said.
The proposed Glades Reservoir, if completed, is projected to provide 80 million gallons of water per day to Northeast Georgia residents.
Gov. Nathan Deal's new budget proposal earmarks nearly $50 million for water supply projects in the state, such as Glades. He has promised to spend a total of $300 million throughout his term to guarantee Georgia's water supply and support future economic growth.
Whether or not Hall can score funding from the state, its reservoir project still needs approval from the Army Corps of Engineers.
On Monday, commissioners provided initial approval to keep project manager Jock Connell and Joe Tanner and Associates on the county payroll to continue work toward getting permission to build. Meanwhile, County Administrator Randy Knighton said services from attorney Tommy Craig are poised to run out.
In December, commissioners approved a contract to pay AECOM, an engineering, design and program management company, as much as $1.53 million to prepare an environmental impact statement that will help federal permitting officials determine whether to approve the construction of the proposed reservoir.
With AECOM's deal in place, the county reviewed its work from consultants, which at one point was costing the county about $65,000 a month. Knighton reported on Monday, that amount has been closer $42,000 in recent months.
The new deals, which are expected to get final approval from commissioners on Thursday, will drop monthly fees to an estimated $16,900.
Knighton told The Times the consultants provide a long list of services and are crucial in the county's pursuit of the permits for the reservoir.
"It is significant we are reducing the cost while still maintaining our goal, which is successfully acquiring a permit," Knighton said.
Most of the $25,000 decrease would come from an expiring deal with Craig, whose firm was receiving $22,500 per month for preparing and processing federal and state permits needed to work on the reservoir. The county is reporting it has not received a proposal from Craig's firm to continue services for the next phase of the Glades Reservoir project.
The county also renegotiated fees from Joe Tanner and Associates from $12,500 per month to $10,000.
The firm is now charged with the task of consulting with the county through the environmental impact statement and coordinating the state Environmental Protection Division permitting process.
Jock Connell, project manager and former interim county administrator, will continue to receive a monthly fee of $6,900.
Despite his approval for the new deals, Bell said he's disappointed with the job of the consultants so far and would have preferred to have the services come up for competitive bidding.
Commissioner Scott Gibbs agreed the process has been frustratingly slow. But, he said, "We are too committed at this point to back out."
Gibbs also conceded that much of the slow progress is largely caused by regulations on the federal level and perhaps out of the consultants' control.