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South Hall sewer network could ramp up in next few years
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In an ironic twist, South Hall land once used for as a sewer discharge site could be a revenue boost for Hall County’s sewer operations.

And just a few miles away, the recently approved Atlanta River Walk, a 500-acre multiuse development, could be another cash cow.

“We’re sitting right underneath that property with a 30-inch sewer main (connection),” said Ken Rearden, Hall County’s public utilities director.

Just as development in property-rich South Hall is starting to take off, so are plans to expand South Hall sewer plans.

To prepare for anticipated growth, the county is working toward a $7 million project to extend sewer lines along Friendship Road/Ga. 347, which was newly widened to six lanes from two by the Georgia Department of Transportation.

“We’ve had a lot of interest in the Friendship Road area — people wanting to develop and do some things,” South Hall Commissioner Kathy Cooper said.

“There’s some (areas) down there that are not being serviced, and I feel like Hall County needs to be able to expand into that.”

The county is currently designing the Friendship Road lines, which would travel south along Hog Mountain Road to Friendship Road, then southeast along Friendship to near Puckett Drive, Rearden said.

“And then we will cut across country and come back up to the (Spout Springs) sewer plant,” he said.

Once all the property is secured for the project, Rearden expects to go before the Hall County Board of Commissioners seeking a final design and construction of the project.

“We have written all the property owners that will be affected,” he said. “I have not had one complaint we’re coming with sewer. Everybody is excited about it, actually.”

Rearden said he heard recently from one resident who said she was taking her property off the market “until you get that sewer installed, because it’ll be worth more.”

Not all are as enthusiastic.

“We are not against progress or sewer service, but we are extremely opposed to a sewer which includes a 30-foot gravel road running through our property,” Friendship Road residents Chris and Pam Puckett wrote in an email.

Securing the property will take a couple of years, “so we’re looking at maybe 2019 to be under construction,” Rearden said.

Special purpose local option sales tax revenue is slotted to pay for the sewer expansion.

Overall, the county had some $14.5 million tied up in the 8-year-old Spout Springs treatment plant, but was able to recently erase some of that debt by selling off 100 acres to JH Homes for $2.2 million.

The developer is going before the Hall County Planning Commission on Sept. 19 with plans for 186 homes on the property, which had been used as a spray field. The county now discharges into Lollis Creek.

“All lots will be served by Hall County sanitary sewer and city of Gainesville water,” states JH Homes’ application.

Officials are hoping to pay off the total debt on the plant by 2027.

“We have built up a reserve in our sewer fund due to (customer) tap fees,” said Zach Propes, Hall’s financial services director. “We pull that revenue monthly into a reserve account, and that’s what we’re going to use to continue to make the debt payments.”

The county is making monthly $10,000 interest-only payments but makes an annual principal payment — such as $200,000 this year — each spring, Propes said.

Paying off the debt earlier than 2027 could only happen at the direction of commissioners, Rearden said.

Otherwise, “the future is bright in South Hall, in my mind,” he said.

Rearden particularly pointed to the county’s recent rezoning for Atlanta River Walk, a planned residential, commercial and office development off Old Winder Highway/Ga. 211. And the county’s is in good shape to handle such developments, he said.

The Spout Springs plant is permitted to treat 750,000 gallons of sewer per day and is pumping now about 270,000 gallons, Rearden said.

Plus, the plant, which sits on a remaining 200 acres after the sale, can be expanded to 1.6 million gallons.

One area that might not get attention any time soon for sewer line expansion is busy Spout Springs Road, which has commercial development on either end in Flowery Branch and Braselton and heavy residential in between.

“We’ve done a study for it, but until we get the road construction underway, I don’t think we’re going to do anything with sewer,” Rearden said. “It’s going to be a very difficult road to sewer because it kind of sits on a ridge.”

The two-lane road is set for widening to four lanes — a project that Hall officials said in August could start two years earlier than expected.

The work is slated to be done in phases, with the first phase focusing on Spout Springs between Interstate 985 and Union Circle. Construction is set to begin in fiscal 2019.

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