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Tuesday May 31st, 2016 6:14AM

Hall Commission votes to skip Lula sewer

By Jerry Gunn Reporter
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GAINESVILLE - Despite a warning from Lula Mayor Milton Turner Monday that a Hall County built sewer plant to serve the Highway 365 Gateway Industrial park would cost more than tying into Lula's plant, Commissioners Thursday night voted 4-1 to build their own plant.

The motion came from Billy Powell to suspend negotiations with Lula and pursue a treatment facility that would be designed and built to the county's own standards and under the county's direction. The plant would discharge into the North Oconee River.

Commissioners decided that after six months of amendment negotiations on a seven year old agreement with Lula, there were too many differences that put the county at a disadvantage. Powell said Lula could control sewer rates to offset its own financial challenges.He added that a county built plant, costing around $8-million, would better meet the sewer basins needs and could be built in stages. The plant would be paid for with SPLOST funds, sewer tap fees and other financing options.

Hall County still owns 100,000 gallons of sewer capacity in Lula's sewer plant, which can be used for future growth in other parts of North Hall.That capacity was purchased for $1.5 million and has already been paid for in full per the County's 2006 Intergovernmental Agreement with Lula.

The Gateway Industrial Park would initially require 500,000 gallons of sewer capacity and Hall County would have to purchase another 400,000 gallons from the City of Lula for $7.9 million, in addition to upgrading Lula's transmission lines and pump stations for another $2 million, bringing the total cost to the County to approximately $11.4 million.

"It would save millions dollars considering what it would take to buy additional capacity from the City of Lula and what we would have to pay to upgrade their transmission lines and pump stations to service Gateway site," Powell added.

Commissioners Jeff Stowe, Craig Lutz and Scott Gibbs each said they would support Powell's motion. Public Works Director Ken Reardon, when asked for input, listed several unresolved 'sticking points' between the county and Lula.

Commission Chairman Dick Mecum cast the only no vote, voicing the hope that 'one more shot' could be taken to resolve differences and form a sewer agreement with Lula.

"It boils down to Hall County needing a sewer and we need it fast and Lula has that sewer," Mecum said. "Lula needs financing; they have situations financially with that sewer. They need customers, they need revenue and Hall County has that."

COMMISSION GOES FOR LOWER BID

Commissioners voted to bypass their purchasing department's recommended bid for construction of the new fire stations, Station (3) and Station (16), and approve the lower bid from Charles Black Construction Company of Cleveland, Georgia.

Black's Bid of $2.7-million sounded a lot better to Commissioner Scott Gibbs than the bid of just over $2.8-million from an Athens firm, Kevin Price General Contractors. Gibbs made the motion for the lower cost.

"It's just hard for me to spend an additional $200, 000," Gibbs said. "I know we have a rating system but Charles Black has performed well in the past so I feel like we should go with the cheaper bid."

The vote to approve the lower bid was unanimous after commissioners said they reviewed the bid rankings and determined Charles Black actually scored higher with bid committee members.
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