Economic times are hard but not enough to slow Oakwood in its pursuit for increased sewer capacity.
The city received an OK last week for 50,000 gallons per day from Braselton, its partner in an $8 million project that ultimately will bring 2.5 million gallons per day to Oakwood.
The South Hall city has submitted plans to the state Environmental Protection Division for a pump station and six miles of lines connecting Oakwood to Braselton’s system.
Oakwood City Manager Stan Brown said he expects the city to begin acquiring property for the project later this year or early next year, with construction to begin next year. He hopes that by 2010, "we’d be ready to put that line in service."
"As the economy (improves) and we see some of these road construction projects (in the area) completed, we expect the demand (for sewer) will be there," Brown said.
Connection fees, he believes, will cover project costs, financed largely by a loan from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority.
"We see that this system will pay its way," he said.
Nearly 80 percent of the city’s revenues come from commercial and industrial developments, and that aspect of the city continues to grow even as the economy lags.
A Kroger-anchored shopping center opened on Winder Highway in the summer and developments, including a child-care center, are springing up across the road. Also, tenants are filling a newly finished shopping center that has opened next to Wal-Mart Supercenter off Mundy Mill Road.
Oakwood officials hope for commercial development along the planned last leg of the Thurmon Tanner Parkway, which will run between Plainview and Mundy Mill roads.
The Georgia Department of Transportation opened bids on that project Friday, naming a Monroe contractor as the apparent low bidder.
The project could be completed about the same time as the DOT wraps up a $75 million reconstruction of roads around Interstate 985.
Brown has said he believes the new network of roads will spur both creation of new businesses and redevelopment of existing areas.
Oakwood, which doesn’t operate a sewer plant of its own, relies on capacity from the Gainesville and Flowery Branch plants. It has about 950,000 gallons per day and ultimately, with boosts in capacity also from Gainesville and Flowery Branch, could reach 4 million gallons, Brown said.
The city has 100,000 gallons in the Winder Highway area, with the sewer flowing to Flowery Branch’s plant through a pump station and force main owned by Hall County.
"What we’re seeing is, as we continue to grow as a city, we’ve got a lot more demand for service in the Winder Highway corridor," Brown said. "We could (ultimately need) somewhere between 1 million and a million and a half gallons per day ... in that area."
The developing area is in the Oconee basin, where Braselton’s plant is located.
"They have a plant they’ve made some improvements to, and they have available capacity right now," Brown said. "And as they do future expansions ... we can participate in (getting) additional capacity."
The two cities signed an agreement in November 2006.
The Oakwood-Braselton line would start at the pump station on Martin Road and travel to Park 85 at Braselton business park off Ga. 53 in Jackson County.
"The good thing about (the line) is it is (mostly) going downhill, so ... (it’s) essentially a low-pressure system," Brown said.
Braselton Mayor Pat Graham said the arrangement with Oakwood is unique.
"We don’t usually provide sewer outside our city limits, but this was an interesting discussion that took place," she said. "Braselton and Oakwood are really not in competition for economic development, per se."
That’s largely because the cities operate in different geographic areas.
"We’re located on (Interstate) 85. They’re located on I-985. It just seemed like a project that would benefit both jurisdictions," Graham said.
The cities’ agreement calls for Oakwood to pay its proportionate share in capacity increases at the Braselton plant. Also, Oakwood is paying $7 per gallon in capacity, Graham said.
"For us, it’s a very good risk," Brown said. "We know the growth is coming in that area. We’ve already got customers that have signed up for service."