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5-29-11 Reservoirs not the only answer to water needs - State Water Force told – Melvin Davis

Melvin Davis quote in Gainesville Times –May 26, 2011- "Federal permitting is a tremendous challenge, and some type of state advocacy at the federal level may be worth studying," said Melvin Davis, a panel member and chairman of the Oconee County Board of Commissioners that has authorized the Bear Creek and Hard Labor Creek reservoir projects. "State permitting is likely the easiest part of the process, but mitigation and legal expenses are also high."

AVOC

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May 28, 2011

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Reservoirs not the only answer to water needs - State Water Force told – Melvin Davis

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By Wendell Dawson, Editor, AVOC, Inc

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AVOC has been a frequent critic of Melvin Davis over policy differences.   AVOC must admit that the job and experience have taught Mr. Davis some things (sometimes at Taxpayers’ expense).   If he could revisit some of his earlier decisions, I expect he would.

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Melvin Davis at BOC Meeting 2009 – Challenges are increasing

      Photo courtesy of Oconee County Observations

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Fast growth policies stressed the county, its infrastructure, school system, tax base and our banking system.   Furthermore, there is no quick relief in sight.   We have PVC farms (incomplete subdivisions) all over the place.   That could and should have been avoided with real leadership.   Our water and sewer capacities were over-extended and we got into the Hard Labor Creek Project which is a big mistake to many knowledgeable observers.

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8-31-09 Oconee County Today – Schools, Banks, Economy, Revenue, Population projections

             http://www.avoc.info/info/article.php?article=4029

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AVOC

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August 30, 2009

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Oconee County Today – Schools, Banks, Economy, Revenue, Population projections

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By Wendell Dawson, Editor, AVOC, Inc

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Over the last several years, I have been critical of our county leadership- particularly on ‘fast-growth’ and spending policies.   The criticism resulted from intimate knowledge of and experience with the county and its modern history.    We had been on a moderate and manageable growth path.    While I am not necessarily gifted with extraordinary vision or prescient abilities, my experience and observation did raise some concerns.   Some of those concerns have been realized in the last two years………………

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The current budget stress is a result of a ‘down economy’ and bad decisions of our local government in the last decade.   Government grew too fast and payrolls multiplied.   Now we are considering early retirements to reduce that cost.

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Oconee County Observations

http://www.oconeecountyobservations.blogspot.com/

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May 17, 2011 – Lee Becker

Oconee County Commissioners Told Gap Between Budget Requests and Revenue Nearly Twice Earlier Estimate

Flatten Budget is Response

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Oconee County commissioners got the grim news tonight that the gap between budget requests and revenue projections for fiscal year 2012 is a whopping $ 3.8 million, rather than the roughly $ 2 million difference discussed earlier.

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The immediate response of the commissioners was to ask Finance Director Jeff Benko to come back to the Board next week with a budget frozen at the 2011 level of $ 20.8 million and to find a way to balance that budget.

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That won’t be easy.

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The revenue projection is $ 18.8 million, and the fund balance–the county’s cash reserve–is very close to what Benko said he considers to be the minimum required.

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That balance as of June 30, 2010, was $ 9.6 million, but the county set aside $ 1.1 million of that to balance the 2011 fiscal year budget, which ends on June 30. How much of that is going to be needed to cover expenses still isn’t known, Benko said………………………

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Water issues have also become much more complicated.   The rosy population and revenue projections that led to Oconee’s participation in Hard Labor Creek reservoirs have been shown to be false as some observers predicted at the time.

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Mr. Davis made some statements recently at a Water Supply Task Force meeting in Gainesville that tend to acknowledge some learning and experience about reservoirs and their costs.     Water rates are being increased to deal with the debt service and the 2014 Reservoir Completion date has proven to be wrong.    It will be years before Oconee County gets water from Hard Labor Creek, if ever.

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Nickels & Dimes… and Dams – Hard Labor Creek Discussed –GA Water Wire – 3.4.11

        http://gawaterwire.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/nickels-dimes%e2%80%a6-and-dams/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+GeorgiaWaterWire+%28Georgia+Water+Wire%29

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Mr. Davis is quoted in the Gainesville Times:

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     "Federal permitting is a tremendous challenge, and some type of state advocacy at the federal level may be worth studying," said Melvin Davis, a panel member and chairman of the Oconee County Board of Commissioners that has authorized the Bear Creek and Hard Labor Creek reservoir projects. "State permitting is likely the easiest part of the process, but mitigation and legal expenses are also high."

     Investment and cooperation among several governments is likely the best solution, noted Tony Rojas, executive director of the Macon Water Authority and a panel member.

   "The regional approach is the most viable and effective means," he said. "But it also leads to immediate difficulties with participation, management of operations, dynamics in the communities and the different needs at the time."


The Gainesville Times

http://www.gainesvilletimes.com/section/6/article/51023/

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May 26, 2011

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Leaders advise reservoirs are not the only answer

Panel addresses state’s Water Supply Task Force

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By Carolyn Crist

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   New reservoirs aren't the immediate answer for Georgia's water needs, a panel of local government leaders said Thursday.

   Though the state should begin investing in reservoir plans, officials need the short-term solution of reauthorizing Lake Lanier, added Kelly Randall, Gainesville's public utilities director and a member of the panel.

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Panel members

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These local government leaders addressed Georgia's Water Supply Task Force:

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Kelly Randall, Gainesville public utilities department director

Bill Lewis, Dahlonega city manager

Melvin Davis, Oconee County Board of Commissioners chairman

Tony Rojas, Macon Water Authority executive director

Jack Dozier, Georgia Association of Water Professionals executive director

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"Water purveyors have spent millions in recent years on the tri-state issue, and it's a big investment in continuing to use Lake Lanier," Randall said. "Whatever the state does, we don't need to send the message to the (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers), Alabama or Florida that any parts of our district don't need and won't rely on Lake Lanier in the long term."

   Randall and others spoke to the technology and finance subcommittees of Georgia's Water Supply Task Force that met Thursday in Gainesville.

    In January, Gov. Nathan Deal set aside $ 300 million for water supply projects and directed the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority to develop the Governor's Water Supply Program to help local governments develop new water sources.

    Before public utilities directors can move forward with plans, they need to hear an answer from the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, Randall said.

     Georgia is asking the court to overturn a July 2009 ruling by U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson that gave the state three years to work out an agreement with neighbors Alabama and Florida — foes in the 20-year water dispute — or face not being able to withdraw water from the North Georgia reservoir.

    "Let there be no mistake. We can't build reservoirs, do water supply projects or get out of the tri-state dispute just by building things," Randall said. "In 2003, water purveyors negotiated a price with power customers to buy storage capacity in Lake Lanier, and it can happen again. It's something we need to be thinking about."

     As task force members create the criteria to award funding, they should note the financial, permitting and political challenges local governments face, the panelists said.

     "Federal permitting is a tremendous challenge, and some type of state advocacy at the federal level may be worth studying," said Melvin Davis, a panel member and chairman of the Oconee County Board of Commissioners that has authorized the Bear Creek and Hard Labor Creek reservoir projects. "State permitting is likely the easiest part of the process, but mitigation and legal expenses are also high."

Investment and cooperation among several governments is likely the best solution, noted Tony Rojas, executive director of the Macon Water Authority and a panel member.

   "The regional approach is the most viable and effective means," he said. "But it also leads to immediate difficulties with participation, management of operations, dynamics in the communities and the different needs at the time."

    This includes the elected officials who make the decisions on large projects.

    "There's the general unwillingness or lack of political will to invest in such expensive projects until you've reached a crisis stage, and then when the crisis occurs, you're looking at a process that could take well over a decade," Rojas said. "It's difficult to get politicians to make the decision until they are forced to, which may be human nature."

     Part of the holdup could include recent changes in population growth, Randall noted.

    "One of the biggest issues facing water utilities today is that we were growing like gangbusters until 2008 ... but now do I really want to build anything?" he said. "Unless the world changes drastically, we have the capacity we need on the ground already, so how do we know what to do and what's really going to happen with the court ruling?"

   State and local officials should also consider the financial impact on customers when considering future projects, he said.

    "The growth we were going to see to pay for debt has not materialized, and our council members have had to raise rates to pay for what we did years ago," Randall explained. "We need to realize that future projects will add to that debt service."

    This includes considering the customers who would bear the burden of a rate increase.

    "We have some poultry folks who produce 33 percent of our total revenue, and if we add a large rate increase, that's tens of thousands of dollars," Randall said. "In this economy, elected officials have difficulty doing that, and the poultry companies are also facing increasing diesel fuel prices and corn shortages. That would be a serious impact to this community."


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