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8-14-07 The Walton Water Project makes no sense for Oconee County

Oconee would pay $ 45.6 million and get 3.4 million gallons of water a day. In a second phase, sometime after 2030, Oconee would pay an additional $ 59.3 million and get an additional 8.6 million gallons of water a day…….” . In comparison, Oconee County is a partner in the Bear Creek-Jackson County reservoir and owns capacity of 7 MGD and treatment capacity of 4 MGD for less than $ 10 Million!!! . This project and its enormous debt will be around for many years after all commissioners in both Oconee and Walton have been long gone. Many will be gone before it can be completed. Yet Oconee seems in a “panic mode” to “get water” to replace capacity it has squandered in recent years. .

AVOC

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August 12, 2007

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The Walton Water Project makes no sense for Oconee County

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By Wendell Dawson, Editor, AVOC, Inc

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If one looks at the numbers and published information, it makes little sense for Oconee County to become entangled in the Walton County – Hard Labor Creek Project.   One also senses better options for Walton County.

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Yet, some individuals are “pushing the project” with minimal regard for future consequences.   This project and its enormous debt will be around for many years after all commissioners in both Oconee and Walton have been long gone.    Many will be gone before it can be completed.   The fees and payments to consultants etc will have long been paid and they will be looking to the next one……….

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Oconee seems in a “panic mode” to “get water” to replace capacity it has squandered in recent year.   However, the cost of $ 45.6 million to get 3.4 million gallons does not make economic sense.   The current administration has squandered that much capacity at Bear Creek with its Fast Growth Policies.

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Does the chairman have any concept about the size of $ 45.6 Million and $ 59.3 million and the burden of the debt for future citizens!After all, he has never run a business…..

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I expect the vote of the Oconee Commissioners will be the fastest step on this project.   I have met some large landowners who are impacted and will litigate condemnation.   Sources indicate that some Walton Citizens may challenge the project legally.   It is very doubtful that Melvin Davis will be Chairman when any water comes out of this project.His legacy will be a big debt and still an existing water capacity need for Oconee County.

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It just does not make sense!!


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Athens Banner-Herald – 7-29-07:Oconee would pay $ 45.6 million and get 3.4 million gallons of water a day. In a second phase, sometime after 2030, Oconee would pay an additional $ 59.3 million and get an additional 8.6 million gallons of water a day…….”

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AVOC Comment: For Comparison purposes, Oconee County is a partner in the Bear Creek-Jackson County reservoir and owns capacity of 7 MGD and treatment capacity of 4 MGDfor less than $ 10 Million!!! 

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The Walton Tribune, 8-8-07:   “The expansion of the Cornish Creek Reservoir is nearing completion, giving the county the option of getting more water from that current source of water possibly by 2009.”

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The Covington News – 7-27-07: “The (Newton) Water Resources Department will oversee the expansion of the Cornish Creek plant from 15 million gallons a day to 25 million gallons a day.”

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Newton County…..90 percent of the necessary right of way has been acquired for the creation of the Bear Creek Reservoir - a project long in the making for the county - Kelley said the county is currently re-applying for its 404 permit from the Environmental Protection Agency which is required before any other further steps can be taken in the project. Acquiring the permit could take anywhere from 18 months to four years.

AVOC Comment: Walton County owns 25 % interest in Cornish Creek and that translates into 10 mgd by 2009!!

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The Walton Tribune, 8-5-07: …“The shenanigans, the politicians that bought up land because they knew what was going on before the homeowners did, it’s just left me and a lot of other folks really frustrated with the whole thing.”……

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Athens Banner-Herald – 7-29-07: "At the end of the day, they control it. That's what it looks like to me," (Oconee Commissioner) Horton said. "Three is never going to equal four."……. "I understand (Walton County) wants to move ahead, but with all due respect, I don't work for them," Horton said. "You're in it for a long haul (if they decide to go ahead with the project). You have to take the time and look at it as much as you can."

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The Walton Tribune, 8-5-07: “…..Walton County commissioners made it clear they intend to proceed with the $ 353 million project with or without Oconee County. …..”

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Athens Banner-Herald – 8-10-07…. “Luke had not received a copy of the new agreement Thursday, but expects Walton County still will have four representatives on the governing board in comparison to Oconee's three. That's because Oconee County would own the rights to only 29 percent of the water and Walton would get 71 percent.

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But Luke expects the three Oconee County representatives on the water authority now will be appointed by county commissioners,….”

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SEE 8-9-07 Agreement Draft:  http://www.oconeecounty.com/Government/Intergovernmental%20Contract%20_Oconee_Walton_.pdf


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Oconee Commissioners supporting Walton Project

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Melvin Davis

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Donald Norris

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Jim Luke

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Walton Chairman Kevin Little is big proponent of Walton Project

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7-19-07 Walton’s Hard Labor Creek Reservoir still having challenges

6-25-07 Oconee-Walton Water Agreement raises concerns of citizens on tax & other issues

6-15-07 Oconee County is moving into a huge commitment that will be around for grandchildren

6-6-07 Oconee 'delegates' taxing authority with Walton Agreement

6-4-07 Oconee to sign 50 year contract with Walton on $ 353 million reservoir project

3-7-07 Oconee to join Walton Reservoir on split Vote – 3 to 2

3-16-07 What the Oconee 3-2 (Melvin Davis) vote on Hard Labor Creek Means

            http://www.oconeecountyobservations.blogspot.com/  (Lee Becker)

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7-30-07 Oconee-Walton water agreement update

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"I understand (Walton County) wants to move ahead, but with all due respect, I don't work for them," Horton said. "You're in it for a long haul (if they decide to go ahead with the project). You have to take the time and look at it as much as you can."

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The Athens Banner-Herald

http://onlineathens.com/stories/072907/news_20070729057.shtml

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July 29, 2007

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Oconee, Walton water partners hopeful

But control an issue in Hard Labor pact

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By Lee Shearer

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Negotiators from Oconee and Walton counties may be nearing an agreement that will seal their partnership in a $53 million reservoir and water treatment plant to supply the two counties' water needs beyond 2030………

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Oconee County Commissioner Don Norris said he was printing off a copy of the 100-odd page document to read over the weekend in anticipation of a Tuesday meeting of the commission. ……

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But he said he liked the changes he had seen so far.

"The biggest concerns were the management committee, but those things are pretty well worked out," Norris said……

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Charles Baugh, president of Citizens for Oconee's Future, criticized the original proposal, saying it gave Oconee "little or no" control. Once signed, Oconee County could never back out, but could only "write checks," he said…..

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In the first phase of the project, according to engineering studies released earlier this year, Oconee would pay $ 45.6 million and get 3.4 million gallons of water a day. In a second phase, sometime after 2030, Oconee would pay an additional $ 59.3 million and get an additional 8.6 million gallons of water a day…….

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"At the end of the day, they control it. That's what it looks like to me," Horton said. "Three is never going to equal four."

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And even if Oconee County is willing to accept a minority say on the board, Horton says he wants answers to some other questions - such as how much power the Hard Labor Creek governing board would have to authorize spending or new debt that Oconee County taxpayers would be liable for……

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"I understand (Walton County) wants to move ahead, but with all due respect, I don't work for them," Horton said. "You're in it for a long haul (if they decide to go ahead with the project). You have to take the time and look at it as much as you can."


8-1-07 Newton County forms Water Resources Department

The Covington News

http://www.covnews.com/main.asp?SectionID=2&SubSectionID=3&ArticleID=448&TM=40468.64

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July 27, 2007

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Protecting Newton's water
County forms department to keep pace with federal regulations
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Rachel Oswald, Staff Writer

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As a result of the need to stay abreast of the increasingly numerous federal soil erosion and storm water runoff regulations, the Newton County Board of Commissioners has formed a new county department - the Water Resources Department and has named Karl Kelley as its director. ….

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"The benefit of this department is the citizens now have one  place to go for all water-related issues," Kelley said. "Right now we're only three to four months into this, and I'm really looking forward to some input on how all of this is going to turn out."

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The Water Resources Department will oversee the expansion of the Cornish Creek plant from 15 million gallons a day to 25 million gallons a day. Kelley said he expected the expansion to be completed in 18 months to two years.

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While approximately 90 percent of the necessary right of way has been acquired for the creation of the Bear Creek Reservoir - a project long in the making for the county - Kelley said the county is currently re-applying for its 404 permit from the Environmental Protection Agency which is required before any other further steps can be taken in the project. Acquiring the permit could take anywhere from 18 months to four years.

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"As soon as that permit is obtained, it is our goal to begin work on that dam." Kelley said.

Construction costs for the project will be determined by the conditions of the permit said Kelley.


8-6-07 Walton says reservoir can be built without Oconee County

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The Walton Tribune

http://www.waltontribune.com/story.lasso?ewcd=998a8e337608cdcb

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August 5, 2007

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Reservoir can proceed without Oconee Co.

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By Robbie Schwartz

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WALTON COUNTY — As the county’s attorney Kirby Atkinson gave an update on the status of negotiations over the Hard Labor Creek Reservoir Thursday night, Commissioner Michael Turner posed the all-important question.
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Are we ready to proceed regardless of the outcome of (Oconee County Board of Commissioners’) vote?”
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Oconee County officials are expected to vote Tuesday night whether to enter into an agreement with Walton County to serve as a partner in the Hard Labor Creek Reservoir. While officials on both sides are optimistic about the outcome, Walton County commissioners made it clear they intend to proceed with the $ 353 million project with or without Oconee County. …..
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While the outcome of the vote hangs in the balance, a timetable for the project has been outlined. Jimmy Parker, with Precision Planning who has been developing the project,
said that the plans are to bond out the first phase of the project sometime next week and by the end of October or early November, money will start coming in for the project. .

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Parker said from that point it will take an estimated 18 months for land acquisition, a step jump-started by a contract approval at the meeting to approve a land appraiser.
Plans call for land to be broken by April 2009
and the project to be complete by 2014, including the 30 months anticipated for the reservoir to fill.
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Parker said the dam will be the first step but along the way the treatment facility will also be developed.
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“We’re not going to have a reservoir without the treatment facility,” Parker said.


The Walton Tribune

http://www.waltontribune.com/story.lasso?ewcd=523cbfa1cbfea33d

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August 5, 2007

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Some say they will not go quietly

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By Robbie Schwartz

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WALTON COUNTY — Some were just worn down after years of fighting the county, opting to take the money and leave behind a place full of memories, a place called home for so many years.
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Some have resigned to deal with the situation when – and if – the waters ever start to rise on their property.
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Others still have fight left in them.…………..
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But for John Oglesby, he isn’t ready to give up the fight just yet.
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His home is across the street from where the Smiths used to live, smack in the middle of what will be 1,370 acres of reservoir plus additional acreage for wetlands and floodplains.
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“I can remember when all of this land used to be in my family. There were cotton fields and woods that I ran through when I was a kid. Most of it has been sold off. I guess I will have to eventually too. I don’t want to, but I have no choice. I can’t fight them because I can’t afford to,” Oglesby said.
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Perhaps the biggest impact for Oglesby is the loss of the sense of community and friends he has in the area. He can be seen traveling up and down Social Circle Fairplay Road in his wheelchair and has people come in and check on him just about every day to make sure he is doing all right.
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An uncertain future of where he will call home lies ahead for Oglesby, but the loss of his close friends are of greater consequence than the loss of land full of a lifetime of memories.
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For Eddie Peters, the time consumed by the project and many of the shady underpinnings reflected in Holder Auction and Doster Realty signs has led to overall frustration over the whole project. Residents in the area are quick to point out the fact land was purchased years ago by former county Commissioner Chairman Rick Holder and former Walton County Water and Sewerage Authority Director Ben Doster, people “in the know.”
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“I’m not disputing that we need it. In the future, water will be more valuable than gas. But it is just the whole way the county went about this that was really all wrong,” Peters said, whose property will only have a small portion affected by the reservoir. “The shenanigans, the politicians that bought up land because they knew what was going on before the homeowners did, it’s just left me and a lot of other folks really frustrated with the whole thing.”
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The issue of land purchases by those close to the project from its inception remains an issue of contention for some Oconee County officials, as they look to ink a deal and become a partner in the project.
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Thus far the county has spent $ 10.3 million on the project, including $ 7.2 million on land acquisition (a reported 511 acres, or 24 percent of the land needed).
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“In applying for a reservoir permit from the Corps of Engineers, there were several obstacles that had to be met,” Walton County Board of Commissioners Kevin Little said. “The average time to get a permit is seven years; it took Walton almost 10. …….
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Walton County officials have made it clear that land will be broken next year and the project will be completed by 2014.
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As the process continues to steamroll and becomes a reality, the benefits of a $ 353 million project that will guarantee water supplies for decades to come will matter naught to those whose lives were affected by the rise of the Hard Labor Creek Reservoir.


8-8-07 Walton Exploring Options for Water- Monroe negotiations

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The Walton Tribune

http://waltontribune.com/story.lasso?ewcd=dd9ac22b44bd7224

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August 8, 2007

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Walton looking to boost water supply

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By Robbie Schwartz

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WALTON COUNTY — While water usage is down across the county, due in large part to restrictions and sporadic rain, county officials said they are hoping to increase water supplies in time for next summer.
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“Together we can build a stronger water system countywide,” Jimmy Parker said about a third proposal to bolster the amount of water purchased by the county from the City of Monroe. “We do have other, more costly options. We can open up the tap from Gwinnett County at a cost of $ 3.66 per thousand gallons. Newton County will have its expansion completed in 2009. But a deal with the City of Monroe remains the best option.”
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According to Parker, an engineer with the county’s contracted engineering firm Precision Planning, Walton County is working on interim water supplies until the Hard Labor Creek Reservoir becomes operational in 2014, giving the county its first chance to produce water instead of buying it. County officials recently met with City of Winder officials about a contractual 1 million gallons per day of water Winder was unable to meet. The matter has been resolved but two pump stations need to be added.
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The expansion of the Cornish Creek Reservoir is nearing completion, giving the county the option of getting more water from that current source of water possibly by 2009.
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But Walton County officials are still hoping their best option, a new deal with Monroe, will pan out.
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Currently the two are in a contract through 2009 where the county pays $ 1.50 per thousand gallons.
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In response to the request, Monroe officials in June offered two options. The first was keep the current rate for the first 2 million gallons, add $ 0.35 for the third million gallons, with the county funding 100 percent of the installation of the new water main.
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The second was the county not fund the main. It would get done when the city needs it and instead of adding $ 0.35 for the third million the cost would simply double to $ 3 per thousand gallons.
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“We really don’t feel that either of these options is in the best interest of the county,” said county attorney Kirby Atkinson. ……

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County officials hoped to finish the letter and get it into the hands of Monroe officials before the end of the week.


8-10-07 Oconee – Walton Water Agreement close to approval – citizens beware

The Athens Banner-Herald

http://onlineathens.com/stories/081007/news_20070810032.shtml

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August 10, 2007

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Agreement keeps Oconee minority on reservoir board

Contract amended

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By Christopher Butler

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Oconee County commissioners will receive today another version of an agreement that would finalize a deal with Walton County to build a reservoir on Hard Labor Creek…….

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The latest version of the agreement still will give Walton County more representatives on a board governing the $ 353 million lake, but the composition of the board probably will change, Oconee County Commissioner Jim Luke predicted Thursday……..

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Commissioners could vote on the agreement as soon as the Aug. 28 meeting, Luke said. County attorneys from both Oconee and Walton counties met Monday to iron out the details of the agreement.

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Luke had not received a copy of the new agreement Thursday, but expects Walton County still will have four representatives on the governing board in comparison to Oconee's three. That's because Oconee County would own the rights to only 29 percent of the water and Walton would get 71 percent.

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But Luke expects the three Oconee County representatives on the water authority now will be appointed by county commissioners, and won't necessarily include the county's commission chairman and the public utilities director, a change Luke specifically asked for.

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"In 10 to 15 years, we will probably have an entirely different set of people running the county, and if one county employee were to have more knowledge about the reservoir than the county commission chairman, for instance, then that person should represent Oconee County on the authority instead," Luke said.

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The seven-person board that would control the lake would hire a company to manage the day-to-day operations of the reservoir and treatment plant.


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