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Reservoir mediation session open to public
Hall, Gainesville to resolve differences on Feb. 2
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Thursday's Hall County Board of Commissioners session was the last meeting for outgoing commissioners Bobby Banks and Steve Gailey.

Fellow commissioners and county staff wished Banks and Gailey well and shared their thoughts about working with them for the past four years. Gailey was absent.

Bobby thanked the county staff for their hard work over the years.

"I really have enjoyed my time on the commission. It's been a pleasure serving South Hall," Banks said.

His colleagues praised him and Gailey for their service to Hall County.

"They're extremely honest, sometimes brutally honest, and it's certainly been a pleasure to work with both of them. I don't know of any two commissioners I've ever worked with that were more dedicated to their job than these two," said County Attorney Bill Blalock.

"No matter where y'all stood, you fought for what you thought was right and for your district," said Commissioner Billy Powell. "The last four years especially have not been without challenges and interesting interactions, and I think we're all better for it. I enjoyed working with you."

The Hall County Board of Commissioners voted Thursday to keep mediation with Gainesville over Cedar Creek reservoir open to the public.

On Feb. 2, Hall County and the city of Gainesville will work with a professional mediator to resolve their differences over rights to water in the reservoir.

"I want to make a motion that all the Hall County commissioners be in attendance that want to be in this mediation with Gainesville," Chairman Tom Oliver said.

"This water is so critical to all the commissioners and all the citizens of Hall County. We have been criticized in the past for having closed meetings on Glades Reservoir. So let the public see what's going on. If our 50-year water future isn't important enough to have everybody at the table, I don't know what is."

The commission voted 3-0 to approve an open mediation process. Commissioners Steve Gailey and Ashley Bell were absent.

"I would hope that the city would respond accordingly and invite all of their City Council members as well," Commissioner Billy Powell said.

In September, the city and the county agreed to nonbinding mediation at the request of Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Georgia Environmental Protection Division Director Allen Barnes.

Barnes has indicated he will not release the needs assessment letter the county needs to move forward with permitting of the planned Glades Reservoir until Gainesville and Hall County can reach an agreement on Cedar Creek.

The two governments have been at odds for months over which entity has control of the water and the financial details of its inclusion in a larger system with the proposed Glades Reservoir.

Rather than build a separate water treatment plant at Glades, the county plans to pump the water from the Glades Reservoir into Cedar Creek Reservoir, where Gainesville will have a treatment plant and distribution lines. The city is the drinking water distributor for most Hall County residents.