Gainesville and Hall County officials have yet to sit down and officially discuss the future of the county’s water resources.
Through an exchange of letters, the governments have said they plan to meet to discuss the future of Cedar Creek Reservoir in East Hall.
But so far, no such meeting has occurred. A meeting scheduled for Thursday between Gainesville City Manager Kip Padgett and Hall County Administrator Charley Nix was canceled.
The city, which plans to build a water treatment plant at the East Hall reservoir, halted the project last month after county officials expressed a desire to make the reservoir part of a North Hall water system.
The reservoir could provide an average of 7.3 million gallons of water per day to Gainesville and Hall County water customers within 2« years if a recent federal ruling limiting the county’s use of Lake Lanier as a water source is enforced in three years.
County Commission Chairman Tom Oliver wrote the City Council two weeks ago, calling plans to build a water treatment plant at Cedar Creek "ill-conceived ... until we determine how that plant will function in relation to the Glades Farm Reservoir ..."
Oliver also expressed a desire to create a joint water authority between the city and the county — the North Hall Water Authority — that would join the county’s yet-to-be built Glades Reservoir and Cedar Creek Reservoir into one water system.
The city declined the offer to join the water authority, but offered to halt plans to construct a water treatment plant at Cedar Creek until both governments can come to an "overall understanding" of the future water supply needs of Hall County, according to a Sept. 24 letter from Gainesville Mayor Myrtle Figueras.
Since then, no officials from both sides have met. They have, however, reacted to each other’s comments in printed reports.
One media outlet reported Wednesday that Oliver is still hoping to create the North Hall Water Authority.
When the City Council met Thursday for its regular work session, Councilman Danny Dunagan said he was "taken aback" by Oliver’s statement.
Dunagan said that in a previous conversation with Oliver, the commission chairman conceded the idea of a water authority, saying he only wanted to work together with city officials.
"After reading that this morning, I don’t know where he’s coming from. I was disappointed," Dunagan said. "But we do want to work — all of us want to work together, because it’s for the good of all."
"It’s interesting to note that Gainesville has always wanted to work together, but we choose not to play out situations in the media and we choose to talk," Figueras said. "But these are interesting efforts of young people who feel as though outside influences can make Gainesville do thus and such. But Gainesville’s water system is very solid."
Oliver has contended that, once the Glades Reservoir is built in seven to 10 years, the county will have access to a greater supply of water than the city’s Public Utilities Department. The county built Cedar Creek Reservoir and still holds its water-withdrawal permit.
Yet Thursday, Councilman Robert "Bob" Hamrick pointed to a three-year-old agreement between the city and the county that gives the city control of the Cedar Creek lake and the responsibility of providing water service for the rest of the county.
"Where you have agreements, I think we’ve fulfilled our obligations under those agreements," Hamrick said. "What else could they expect?"
At the work session Thursday, council members also expressed a need for an immediate resolution between the two governments, because building a water treatment plant at Cedar Creek Reservoir will take at least 2« years, leaving a short period of time to put the reservoir to use by a court-mandated deadline to reduce the city’s reliance on Lake Lanier.
Judge Paul Magnuson ruled in July that water withdrawal is not a congressionally authorized use of Lake Lanier.
The ruling gives Georgia three years to stop using the reservoir for water consumption, negotiate another deal with Florida and Alabama or have Congress reauthorize the lake’s use.
Locally, the ruling threatens to cut Hall County’s withdrawals from Lake Lanier by more than half. Gainesville Public Utilities Department, which currently withdraws approximately 18 million gallons of water per day from Lanier, would have to return to its original withdrawal permit of 8 million gallons per day.