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Authority exploring water service options

POSTED: September 21, 2011 4:00 a.m.

Officials want to know why some Dawson County residents are paying a Lumpkin County entity a much higher rate for water that originates from the Etowah Water and Sewer Authority.

In all, nearly 50 Dawson County homeowners receive water from the Lumpkin County Water and Sewerage Authority.

David Passino, a homeowner in the Mountain Brook subdivision off Ga. 400, brought the matter to local officials.

In a letter to the Dawson County commission dated May 9, Passino wrote that he was confused why the Lumpkin authority provided service to the property he bought in 2005.

"Initially, we did not think this was a big deal and assumed the rates would be the same," Passino wrote. "As time went on, we became more and more dissatisfied with the service and rates and fees being charged."

According to rates provided by both authorities, residential customer fees for water service in Lumpkin are a little more than $70 per month for a home that uses 5,000 gallons of water.

That same level of use would cost slightly more than $40 with Etowah as the provider, a difference of nearly $30 a month or $360 per year.

The letter reached Etowah General Manager Brooke Anderson, who brought it to the authority's directors during their Sept. 13 meeting.

"After the meeting, we essentially went on a fact-finding mission to figure out why this was occurring," Anderson said.

His investigation revealed an agreement signed in May 2000 that gives Lumpkin the right to provide water to the subdivision. That same deal also details how Lumpkin will buy water from Etowah to serve the neighborhood, according to Anderson.

Anderson declined to release a copy of the agreement before he could present it to the board.

He said he plans to see if Lumpkin County would be willing to allow the local authority to serve the area.

"We plan to take the matter to Lumpkin County and see if there would be an interest in changing the agreement," Anderson said.

Dudley Owens, the director of Lumpkin County Water and Sewerage Authority, said he sees no reason for change.

"It's been operated and maintained by Lumpkin County Water for a long while and it's important to our infrastructure and our business plan to continue to maintain that," Owens said.

"The agreement was before my time here and changing it wouldn't be up to me, it would be up to the [authority's] board. But I wouldn't recommend it."

Such intergovernmental agreements are not unusual between water service providers, according to Anderson.

"We have agreements with both Forsyth and Hall counties," Anderson said. "There are situations where one county is better situated to provide service and the two sides will come to an agreement to do so."

In this case, however, it remains unclear why the deal was struck.

According to Anderson, the home and lines were built in 1990. Etowah served the area until the agreement in 2000.

"We're still looking into the matter so that we can respond to [Passino] as quickly as possible with a full explanation," Anderson said. "But we do provide service in that area and we did provide service to the subdivision up until [2000]."

According to Anderson, the authority's board plans to discuss the matter again at its next board meeting.

That work session is set for 4 p.m. Oct. 11 at the authority's office on Hwy. 53 East.

 

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