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No easy answers - Lula explores sewer financing
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City Manager Dennis Bergin reviews sewer line expansion proposals with Lula council members during a work session on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018. - photo by Joshua Silavent

Lula officials on Thursday began digging into options on how to finance the expansion of sewer lines to service forecasted commercial and residential growth in the North Hall city over the next several years.

But hard and fast decisions will take some time to emerge as officials consider the varying alternatives at their disposal.

It boils down to, “What can you afford?” City Manager Dennis Bergin told the council gathered for a work session.

The potential to “drive development and enhance opportunity” for growth by expanding sewer capacity is motivating officials, Bergin said.

Without sewer lines, developers would have to set aside large tracts for septic tank installment and management.

Officials said they would like to expand sewer lines to the west side of Ga. 365, for starters. But serving other areas, such as residential and retail development along Belton Bridge Road, steers them toward a $1.4 million plan.

This plan could also include servicing a poultry plant on a large tract off Lula Road/Ga. 52 that is owned by Gainesville-based Mar-Jac Poultry Inc.

The city could explore a long-term, low-interest loan with the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority, utilize cash reserves of up to $700,000, or raise permitting or tap fees to increase revenue.

Those are just a few financing options and other avenues could later come into play. 

There is an old saying in the real estate profession: retail follows rooftops.

And Lula officials believe there is a pent-up demand for housing.

“They’re coming this way,” Councilman Lamb Griffin said.

Some officials expressed concern that Lula had acted too conservatively or cautiously in the past and not kept up with sewer demand.

Councilman Vince Evans said it’s important for Lula to advertise what capacity it currently has available to help spur interest from developers in other parts of the city.

Mayor Jim Grier said he expects officials will continue to analyze their options for several months. 

A first step is developing some preliminary engineering plans before establishing just how far to extend sewer service at this time and how to pay for it, he added. 

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