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Lula weighs county’s request to negotiate sale of city sewer plant
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Lula City Manager Dennis Bergin points to a component of the town's wastewater treatment plant completed in 2011 at a cost of $8.5 million. Hall County is interested in purchasing the facility on 27 acres at Magnolia Station Drive. - photo by Carlos Galarza

The ball is now in the Lula City Council’s court to see whether there is any interest to negotiate the sale of the city’s wastewater treatment plant to Hall County.

Lula received a letter gauging its interest in the potential purchase of the plant by Hall County, City Manager Dennis Bergin said Thursday.

“Right now, the city council has taken that under consideration and I would expect sometime within the next seven to 10 days that they’ll decide whether they want to go forward with the discussions,” Bergin said.

Earlier this week, during a Joint Municipal Association meeting, Lula Mayor Milton Turner acknowledged receiving a letter from the county to discuss the potential acquisition of the plant.

Asked by The Times about the likelihood of a deal getting done, Turner indicated he didn’t think it would happen.

“It’s a decision council will make,” Turner said.

The Times obtained from Lula a copy of the letter addressed to Turner by Board of Commissioners Chairman Richard Higgins. According to the letter, which was received by the city Monday, the county and Lula “are required to enter into good-faith negotiations,” as required by the service delivery strategy agreement signed by Hall County and municipalities in the area. Lula did not sign the agreement.

“We would like to look toward a mid-November date for our meeting,” added the county’s letter to Lula.

Bergin said he would like to see the two sides meet.

“We hope they would because we don’t have any details at this point,” Bergin said.

Lula completed its wastewater treatment plant in March 2011 at a cost of $8.5 million, according to Bergin. He said the city spent an additional $900,000 to extend sewer lines.

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Trinity Dean, the Class 1 operator at the Lula wastewater treatment plant, shows samples of treated water that is discharged into the Upper Chattahoochee basin. Hall County wants to enter talks with Lula officials on purchasing the plant.
The plant treats 100,000 gallons of wastewater a day and is permitted by the state for 384,000 gallons daily. The county paid Lula $1.5 million to reserve 100,000 gallons of capacity

Bergin calls the plant on 27 acres on Magnolia Station Drive a “monitor and maintain” facility handled by two full-time employees.

The highly efficient operation can be programmed and monitored from a desktop computer and remotely by mobile device from anywhere in the world, according to Class 1 operator Trinity Dean.

Although Lula took out a 20-year loan to pay for the plant, Bergin said the city will pay it off well ahead of schedule. He said the debt is down to a little more than $1 million.

Lula and Hall County have been at odds over the county’s decision to extend sewer lines up Ga. 365 in the vicinity of Lula’s service area.

Bergin said talks between the two sides could promote the kind of partnership relationship the two sides had in mind when the plan was built.

“Hopefully, what will come out of this is an opportunity to create an ongoing partnership that we started in 2012,” Bergin said.

County spokeswoman Katie Crumley said it’s her understanding that the letter to enter into good-faith negotiations stems from the service delivery strategy agreement and not from any unresolved dispute between Lula and the county.

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