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Jefferson council moves reservoir project ahead
Members vote to buy land
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Plans to provide water to Jefferson are flowing ahead after a decision last month by the Jefferson City Council to condemn a 3.5-acre tract of land at 345 Fields Road.

The council decided in a 4-1 vote, with Bosie Griffith opposing, to pay the appraised price of $54,000 for the acreage belonging to Jerry Fields and Shirley Pethel.

The vote came after a 20-minute executive session for land acquisition. The parcel was necessary to meet what is hoped to be the final hurdle in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permitting process for the proposed Parks Creek Reservoir.

Attempts to negotiate a price with the property owners have been ongoing for about nine months without success so the council exercised its eminent domain to protect the project, according to City Manager John Ward.

The 170-acre Parks Creek Reservoir will provide about 4 million gallons of water per day.

The city has already received permits from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Division, and for the past two years, activities have focused on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permitting process.

"Due to the availability of potential state funding to create reservoirs, time was of the essence due to our placement at the top of the state's list of projects ready for construction," Ward said.

"If we continued to delay a decision, we could be passed by other communities that are also working on reservoirs and lose state assistance. Losing state assistance could result in a larger local investment and potentially higher water prices."

The final permitting condition requires mitigation of the impact created when the reservoir is built.

"We plan to do the majority of the required mitigation on the city's Park & Recreation property located on 100 acres off Old Pendergrass Road," Ward said. With that plan, the city is short some 12,000 to 17,000 stream credits.

"Restoring the Park & Rec property and restoring 250 linear feet of the Fields' impacted creek property will then connect it to the adjacent Army Corps permitted Wetland Mitigation Bank owned by Alex Bryan," Ward said.

"This restoration and connection is needed ... to move forward with supplying the city with a future water source."

Other options for mitigation mandates were explored, Ward said, and the most cost-effective alternative was acquisition of the Fields' property since only 250 feet of creek would have to be restored.

Ward called the $54,000 appraisal price a wise use of taxpayers' money because of the location of the city's mitigation project and the adjacent wetland bank.

"In the end, the project will result in restored creeks, an increase in the availability of water and future economic opportunity for our area," he said.