In other business, the Hall County Board of Commissioners voted to hire an independent firm to evaluate proposals for the future of the county’s solid waste services.
Following a 3-2 vote with Chairman Tom Oliver and Commissioner Billy Powell dissenting, Mercer Group will be paid $137 per hour to analyze bids from Hall County’s public works division and other private bidders who wish to take over all or parts of the county’s solid waste system.
The contract will not exceed $20,000, according to Thursday’s action.
The county put its solid waste services, which are responsible for the county’s 13 compactor sites and transport the collected waste to the landfill for disposal, up for bid this spring.
The move has forced the county’s Solid Waste Division to compete with private companies for providing the service at the lowest cost for taxpayers.
Including the proposals from the Solid Waste Division, county officials received six bids to provide the service.
Oliver opposed the move, hoping to leave privatization of the county landfill off the table.
While he said he supported looking at other options for other sectors of the Solid Waste division, Oliver said allowing the landfill to be privatized would take its future out of the county’s hands, possibly opening the door for trash from other counties to fill the cells Hall County taxpayers paid for.
Thanks to a favorable ruling in the tri-state spat over water in Lake Lanier, Hall County officials say they no longer need Cedar Creek Reservoir to make their plans for a future reservoir viable.
The move, according to Hall County Board of Commissioners Chairman Tom Oliver, could reduce the cost of Glades Reservoir by at least $200 million.
It also likely will neutralize ongoing friction between the county and the Gainesville City Council over ownership of Cedar Creek.
Hall County’s plans for the 850-acre Glades Reservoir originally included pumping water from Flat Creek, a tributary of the Chattahoochee River upstream of Lanier, to Cedar Creek Reservoir in the Oconee River basin.
Under the proposal, the water would have been treated and distributed to customers from there.
Now, officials say that they want to let the water flow straight from Glades’ dam to Flat Creek and eventually into Lanier. There, it can be withdrawn and treated by existing plants owned by Gainesville’s Public Utilities Department.
In a last-minute announcement at the board’s meeting Thursday, Oliver said the plan had been county officials’ hope all along.
Oliver said the new plan for using the proposed reservoir’s water was made possible by a recent recognition of the U.S Supreme Court that water supply was an authorized use of Lake Lanier.
The change, according to a county press release, should mean that the reservoir costs no more than $95 million.
“This is huge news for Hall County,” Commissioner Scott Gibbs said.
Cutting Cedar Creek out of the Glades equation gets rid of any issues surrounding interbasin transfers in the project, Commissioner Billy Powell said.
“That’s going to make a lot of people a lot happier,” Powell said.
Commissioner Craig Lutz says the county also can delay construction of the reservoir.
Plans for the reservoir are currently being scrutinized by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers through an environmental impact statement. A draft of that statement is supposed to be completed later this year.
Recommendations on a permit for the reservoir likely won’t come until next year.
Before, county officials said they had 10 years to build the reservoir once the corps issued a permit.
Now, Lutz says there will be more time.
“I wasn’t sure how we were going to come up with the funds for it,” Lutz said.
Commissioner Ashley Bell, whose district includes much of Gainesville’s city limits, said that, with the new plan for Glades, the county should be prepared to resolve a years-old conflict with city officials over ownership of Cedar Creek.
“We’ve been pushing that down the road, down the road,” Bell said. “We need to go ahead and resolve these issues for the city.”
City and county officials had agreed to hold off on negotiations over Cedar Creek’s ownership until after the corps completed a report of how much water in Lanier would be allocated for water supply purposes.
City officials contend a 2006 intergovernmental agreement gives them ownership of the reservoir, along with all the assets and debt left over from the old Hall County water system.
In comments submitted to the corps on the county’s plans for Glades earlier this year, city officials said the county had no right to use Cedar Creek the way it planned.
“The county cannot use Cedar Creek Reservoir in conjunction with the Glades project without the city’s consent, and the city has not consented,” the April 11 letter to the corps states.
Powell said Gainesville officials had agreed to the new plan.