Notch one for Goliath.
In a political struggle between Lula and Hall County — often portrayed by Lula City Manager Dennis Bergin as a fight between David and Goliath — Lula came out on the short end.
On Thursday, Mayor Milton Turner admitted as much when he confirmed that the county would be encroaching into what used to be Lula’s sewer service territory as a result of a revised service delivery strategy.
The document was approved by all the municipalities in the county except Lula and Gillsville.
However, Hall County spokeswoman Katie Crumley told The Times that Gillsville’s signature is pending.
Crumley said that Buford and Rest Haven added their signatures to the document Thursday. Previously signing onto the service delivery agreement were Gainesville, Clermont, Flowery Branch and Oakwood.
That left Lula out to dry.
The political defeat comes despite the city spending several thousands of dollars in newspaper ads that accused the county of wasting millions of dollars by duplicating sewer services in Lula’s service area. The ads were intended in part to sway public opinion and rally support from other smaller cities.
Turner said approval of the SDS does not undermine the basis of a potential lawsuit by Lula against Hall County. He said the possible litigation is based on a 2006 sewer agreement between Lula and the county. Lula claims the county violated that contract.
Despite the setback, Turner said Lula will forge ahead.
“It’s not the death of us,” Turner said. “There are other options we can do ... We can look at running things a different way… It’s something we will sit back and collectively and slowly make those decisions on.”
Turner said one option for Lula is to concentrate its sewer delivery efforts around the Belton Bridge area and move northward.
“That is our service district, so that’s an area we can concentrate in if we so choose,” Turner said.
Turner said the county is moving into service territory that used to be Lula’s.
“But of course, with the new service area the county says that’s theirs now,” Turner said.
A service delivery strategy is required by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs to avoid duplication of services and waste of taxpayer money by local governments. Hall County had until June 30 to submit a revised SDS or face losing state funding, grants and state permitting.
Included in the new, 10-year agreement is a $1.6 million payment from the county to the municipalities based on their property tax values. Lula residents will benefit from the tax equity as well, despite city council’s decision to not approve the SDS.