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Lula tries to sweeten sewer offer to county
Prospective company would need 300,000 gallons a day
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The city of Lula is letting the Hall County Board of Commissioners know it’s serious about partnering with the county to provide sewer service to the Gateway Industrial Centre and the Ga. 365 corridor.

Commissioners heard three sewer service presentations from the county, the city of Lula and the city of Gainesville at its work session last week. Board Chairman Richard Mecum said he wants the commissioners to make a decision at their next meeting, scheduled for Valentine’s Day.

Hall County agreed to provide sewer service to the 518-acre industrial park that’s under development within 36 months after Georgia Poultry Laboratory closed on its property there. However, Tim Evans, vice president of business development with the Greater Hall County Chamber of Commerce, said there is a company considering the site that could bring close to 300 jobs to the county.

If the company chooses to build its facility at the industrial park, it would need 300,000 gallons a day in wastewater capacity.

Mecum wants a couple of commissioners and staff members to sit down with both Lula and Gainesville to go through the details of each offer and bring an analysis back to the board. Mecum appeared less enthusiastic about the county option, saying it would be expensive and time-consuming.

“It’s almost cost-prohibitive,” he said.

Lula Mayor Milton Turner sent the commission a letter a couple of days after the presentation with the end paragraph bolded. The paragraph said Lula would welcome continued discussion about how the county could pay for the infrastructure improvements “as to not burden the taxpayer and the rate structure paid by the potential and future development.”

When asked if Lula would consider financing the county’s up-front, out-of-pocket costs for infrastructure and wastewater treatment capacity, City Manager Dennis Bergin said he believed the mayor and council would remain open to exploring all options.

Gainesville’s option has no out-of-pocket expenses for the county. Gainesville City Manager Kip Padgett said the city’s offer hasn’t changed.

“It doesn’t look like we can go wrong either way,” Mecum said.

Commissioners voted Nov. 29 to build a 3,500-foot gravity sewer and 75,000-gallons-per-day treatment plant to serve the site at an expected cost of $3.2 million after looking at infrastructure options from Lula and the city of Gainesville, but the makeup of the board has changed since then.

Lula had two operational options for the county and two sewer infrastructure options. The preliminary cost to hook up the industrial park to the city’s wastewater treatment plant would be about $1.9 million and that included a pump station and force main infrastructure. Lula also offered a preliminary cost estimate for a regional pump station and gravity sewer infrastructure of $2.35 million. Hall County would have the option of operating and maintaining the infrastructure or leave it to the city to manage.

Hall County owns 100,000 gallons per day of capacity in the Lula wastewater plant and the county has an option for an additional 50,000 gallons for the price of $14 per gallon. Hall County could also purchase an additional 150,000 gallons at an estimated cost of $15 per gallon, which would give the county a 300,000-gallon capacity that is available now, according to the Lula presentation.

The total estimate for Lula to provide sewer service, including construction and water capacity, would be $4.85 million, and it could be up and running in the next 12 to 15 months, Bergin said in the work session.

Gainesville would enhance its pipeline from station 26 to White Sulphur Road and then build pipe infrastructure along the Ga. 365 corridor to a north pump station at the industrial center. Gainesville would finance the cost of the infrastructure and water capacity and would use debt service payments to pay off the project’s expense. If the county opted out in the next 10 years, it would have to repay the pro rata share of the costs the city incurred.

Hall County paid $10.6 million in 2002 for 1 million gallons of treatment capacity and $4.1 million for its share of the collection system to the Flat Creek Water Reclamation Facility from station 26. Hall County has since moved its more than 1 million gallons of treatment capacity to its South Hall treatment facility.

The city quoted water treatment capacity costs of between $3.9 million for 200,000 gallons to $10.6 million for 1 million gallons a day. Gainesville would also sell the county additional capacity at a rate of $13.5 million per 1 million gallons.

Padgett said it would typically take the city 24-36 months to complete a similar project, but it could be done faster through design and build or by issuing multiple contracts on different sections.

Ken Rearden, county director of utilities, said the county could build a 300,000-gallons-a-day-capacity permanent plant in about 15 months for between $6 million and $9 million. Commissioner Scott Gibbs said he’s still considering the county option. He said he wants to break down all the offers and see which offers the cheapest price.

“Bottom line, I want the best deal for the county,” Gibbs said.