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6-22-05 Financial Strain for Lumpkin County Yahoola Creek Reservoir

Tommy Craig, Attorney and Consultant, who is associated with the Walton County Hard Labor Creek Reservoir Project worked on the Dahlonega Project and many others. Mr. Craig has a significant reputation in the water projects area in Georgia.

AVOC

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June 19, 2005

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Financial Strain for Lumpkin County-City of Dahlonega Yahoola Creek Reservoir

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By Wendell Dawson, Editor, AVOC, Inc

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This project started out as a smaller project and ran in to cost over-runs.Tommy Craig of Covington was a leading consultant on this project.

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The Lumpkin County folks are very frustrated with the costs and strains that were left with them.

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Other jurisdictions would be wise to check with Lumpkin County on reservoir plans.They probably have some stories to tell.

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Consultants can “sell” a great plan.However, if it does not materialize, the consultants and their compensation are gone.The locals are left with the debt and problems.

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SEE:

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10/24/01 - STATE BUYING DAHLONEGA-LUMPKIN COUNTY RESERVOIR

 11-29-04 Sam Hay - Gadfly & Newton County Attorney Tommy Craig

 3-25-04 Jasper County Struggling With Water Issues-Newton Contract

 3-11-05 Reservoirs, Consultants, Cost Overruns, Governors, and Attorney Tommy Craig

 3-31-05 Walton & Oconee Need to Talk With Dahlonega-Lumpkin about Reservoir


 

The Dahlonega Nugget

http://www.thedahloneganugget.com/

 

June 10, 2005

New offer on reservoir goes to governor

By Sharon Hall

A new plan to purchase the Yahoola Creek Reservoir and surrounding property is being sent to Georgia Environmental Facilities Agency (GEFA). The joint Lumpkin County-City of Dahlonega offer requests the state waive the accrued interest of $ 1.7 million and extend a three-year payment holiday on a 40-year-loan at 2 percent interest on the $ 13.7 million debt.

The plan is a counter-proposal to the state's offer, made in March, of either a 30-year-loan at 4 percent with a 20-year balloon payment, or a three-year payment holiday and a reduction of interest to 3 percent. The plan is based on a 50/50 split of the water allocation and the property.

No decision has yet been made by either the city or county on how to pay off the loan should the state accept the proposal.

Commissioner Deborah Hutcheson (District 2) said she has mixed emotions about putting the county in further debt for the reservoir.

"The cost will be borne by many people who will not benefit, like those living in Nimblewill, for example, or in Yahoola. Do they really want to take that debt on?

"I know we'd like to keep the reservoir and surrounding property from being developed, but the more I learn the more I think we need to consider the real costs. A water treatment plant will have to be built, and there are other expenses."

In addition to finding a way to fund the buy-back, the county must either adopt a watershed protection plan that includes a controversial buffer provision, or find a compromise on the issue with Environmental Protection Division.

EPD requires a 150-foot buffer on both sides of all creeks and streams seven miles upstream of reservoirs before granting withdrawal permits.

Chairman of the board of commissioners Steve Gooch refused to adopt the requirements during his tenure as sole commissioner, and said he would "vote no" should he have the opportunity now. The board chair can only vote in case of a tie.

Without an agreement with EPD the city may not buy into the deal.

"The ultimate value to the city is the withdrawal permit," said city manager Bill Lewis. "That was our goal when we got into this in the first place; not to accrue additional real estate, but to have the water. The water is what's important from an economic development standpoint."

A recent study by the city's engineering firm Jordan, Jones and Goulding, Inc. revealed the city may be running out of water a lot sooner than originally thought, by 2015 for average daily use.

However, the study projects that the city could run short of water on a peak day as early as next year.

The study also projects that water treatment capacity will be reached much sooner than anticipated - by 2006 or 2007.

"At that point EPD may place a moratorium on growth in the city. We won't be able to hook up any new customers," Lewis said.

The withdrawal permit is critical, county attorney K.C. Horne said. "Georgia owns all surface water, so even if we own the reservoir, we don't control the water. Without a withdrawal permit or allocation rights, it's still in the hands of the state. If you haven't included the water, you haven't accomplished anything."

District 4 commissioner Marvin Martin is hopeful of a compromise with EPD. He's been working on ideas for several months, he said, and now has some plans he wants to bring before the entire board before trying them out on EPD. Both State Representative Amos Amerson and Senator Chip Pearson have agreed to try to set up a meeting between city and county representatives and the regulatory agency.

Amerson said he thinks EPD would be willing to approve a reasonable plan from the county, although they have not, so far, allowed any deviation from the buffer requirement.


Dahlonega Nuggett

Water authority stands firm against developer

By Sharon Hall

There have been several months of wrangling over what developer Maxwell Properties, Inc. will pay to purchase sewage capacity from the Lumpkin County Water & Sewerage Authority.

Both the authority and Maxwell Properties are basing their calculations on the same schedule, Table JT-1, which calculates sewage flow for particular size buildings and types of businesses.

The table is generated by the State Department of Human Resources, which is responsible for the health and safety of citizens.

"This is pretty typical," said Maxwell's vice-president and project manager for the development in question, Chestatee Village at Georgia 400 and Highway 60 where The Home Depot is scheduled to be located.

"We'll just work through this with the authority. It's not an issue in my mind, just part of the development project."

The authority, however, does not see the figure they have calculated as negotiable.

"The board recognizes this isn't an auction house. The schedule is what it is, and we're going to follow it," said Dudley Owens, the authority's director.

"The authority previously sold capacity to Jack Hartramphf from the adopted rate schedule."

"If we start varying what we charge we open a Pandora's box," said authority board chair Randy Harvey. "If we do it for one, then we will end up doing it for the next one that comes along."

According to the authority's calculations, Chestatee Village will use 22,584 gallons per day (gpd) in sewer capacity - once all the shops are in operation - at a cost of $ 361,344.

In a phone conversation with The Dahlonega Nugget, Wert would not reveal what Maxwell Properties' engineer found to dispute, but Owens said the firm does not agree that The Home Depot would use the amount of sewage capacity the authority is claiming.

The JT-1 schedule shows an enclosed space the same size as The Home Depot is calculated at 10,489 gpd, the same as a shopping mall.

"Other jurisdictions tell us that Home Depot is a magnet, and will generate a peak flow the same as a shopping mall," Owens said. "You have to plan for peak flow. It's not like water, which is held in a tank and there when you turn on the tap. You have to be able to handle the flow when it hits the pipe. When it hits that lift station, you better be able to push it."

Wert appears to be using an EIP (Employment Incentive Program) grant as a bargaining chip.

The $ 227,000 the county would receive from the grant would help pay for the lift station needed to move sewage to the treatment plant.

A letter from the developer stating the project will provide 50 jobs is required by the Department of Community Affairs in order for the money to be released to the authority.

So far, Maxwell Properties has refused to sign the letter until the capacity disagreement is worked out, said board of commissioners chairman Steve Gooch.

Gooch is also a voting member of the water & sewerage authority.

"What they tell me is that they paid less for The Home Depot is Jasper, which Maxwell Properties also built. The one in Dawson County also cost less. But whatever we adopted, we have to enforce," Gooch said.

"Mr. Wert seems to think we're going to knuckle under, but it's the consensus of the board that we are going to stand firm," Harvey said.


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