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Hall's price tag mounting for Glades Reservoir
Cost now at $15M; sales tax funds spent to finalize reservoir project
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Glades Reservoir costs

• Total spent so far: $15 million
• Paid to AECOM: $4 million
• Paid to Joe Tanner & Associates: $770,000
• Expected total cost: $130 million

With the delay of a draft environmental impact statement, costs continue mounting with no end in sight for the proposed Glades Reservoir.

While taxpayers are footing the bill, businesses are seeing a financial windfall.

On Thursday, the Hall County Board of Commissioners approved extending a consulting agreement with Joe Tanner & Associates for an additional year in the amount of $130,000.

The board also approved an additional $650,000 in payments to AECOM, the firm contracted by the Army Corps of Engineers to complete the statement.

These payments, funded through special purpose local option sales tax funds, will bring the total spent by Hall County on the Glades Reservoir to more than $15 million.

AECOM alone has received more than $4 million while Joe Tanner & Associates has received about $770,000.

But costs for Glades are likely to continue rising.

In April, a lease agreement was extended that shifts the responsibility for permitting and construction of the reservoir to the county, and commits the county to paying $4.5 million to Glade Farm within 120 days of receiving the necessary permit for construction.

“County taxpayers are now on the hook ... for a reservoir project that may never be permitted,” Sally Bethea, executive director of the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, told The Times in an email. “And the tab is still open with very little to show for the money.”

Supporters say the proposed 850-acre Glades Reservoir in the Upper Chattahoochee River Basin will add about 40 million gallons per day to the water supply of Northeast Georgia at an estimated $130 million cost to Hall County.

Glades is eligible for up to $40 million in funding from the Governor’s Water Supply Program.

Hall County Commissioner Craig Lutz said this money is badly needed to pay for the construction of Glades if a permit is issued. There is not enough SPLOST or general fund money to pay it off otherwise.

“If you’re a poker player, you could say we are pot committed,” he said.

But there is some debate now emerging about whether SPLOST VI money was ever intended for Glades.

Resident Bill Brooksher addressed that issue at the Board of Commissioners meeting, expressing his concern the county was pouring too many taxpayer dollars into the proposed project.

A review of the SPLOST VI project list posted on the county’s website makes no mention of Glades, though officials contend it’s included in the “other sewer/water improvements” line item.

Hall County Public Works Director Ken Rearden said he expects the draft statement to be finished sometime this fall after being pushed back once more last month, though the Army Corps of Engineers has yet to confirm this timeline.

Rearden added a final environmental impact statement and a decision from the corps on whether to issue a permit for the project will likely happen next summer.

Several commissioners have said the latest delay of the draft statement shows federal agencies are doing their due diligence.

But Lutz said it reflects burdensome regulations.

“The federal regulations we are having to deal with are ridiculous,” he said.

Opponents of the project have said Hall County has been remiss in providing the necessary information to federal authorities, thus causing the delay.

“Three years after the county submitted its permit application, federal agencies say they still do not have enough information to evaluate Glades Reservoir,” Bethea said. “We do not believe this amenity lake for real estate development can be justified economically or environmentally.”

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