Residents living along Kilough Church and Nix Bridge roads are furious at county commissioners for voting down a proposal that would have brought fire hydrants to the area.
"This is very disappointing. We're shocked that three out of the five commissioners voted no," said Warren King, who along with dozens of neighbors, attended last week's voting session of the Dawson County Board of Commissioners in support of an intergovernmental agreement with Etowah Water and Sewer Authority.
The authority, which has immediate plans to upgrade waterlines in the area, proposed a partnership with the county that, if approved, would have paved the way for hydrants to be installed on the new waterlines.
Since an agreement was not reached, the authority will install 8-inch waterlines, instead of the 12-inch lines that are needed for hydrants.
"I remain surprised at why they made the decision they made," said Brooke Anderson, authority general manager. "They provided the direction we needed in order to move forward, and so we'll move forward in providing domestic service to the county and provide that service to our customers and the citizens of the county."
Commissioners Sharon Fausett, Jimmy Hamby and Julie Hughes Nix voted against the authority's proposal, which called for a 25-year term and a charge to the county of $5,000 per hydrant.
The authority would be responsible for the waterlines.
Dick McNeill, chairman of a homeowner advocacy group known as the Kilough Task Force, said residents deserve to know why the proposal was rejected.
"We were stunned by the vote last evening. Property owners present were taken back that none of [the commissioners] provided an explanation on why they voted against," he said. "There was dead silence during open discussion creating the impression that their minds were made up before the meeting started.
"Judging by the feedback from our property owners, their vote against is incomprehensible; no one was able think of one reason to substantiate their vote."
Hamby addressed the vote Friday morning, citing the lack of a bid process among his greatest concerns and reason for rejecting the proposal.
"We have a $25,000 threshold. We have to bid out anything we buy that crosses that, and Etowah didn't want to do that," he said. "The bid process tells us what the cost is, why we are doing it, is it good for the county and are we getting the best bang for the buck."
He also said he was not comfortable with a long-term contract.
"Why would we write anybody a blank check for a 25-year contract that would cost us no telling how much?" he said. "It was a whole lot more money than meets the eye when you figure up a 25-year span of obligating the county taxpayers. There's material increases, labor increases, and who knows what that would be. We were supposed to write them a blank check and let them fill it out.
"That's basically what they're asking us to do. That's not what we're supposed to do. We're supposed to get a bid and be nailed down what we are paying. That's how we do everything else."
Focusing on one area of the county, while "ignoring the rest" also did not sit well with Hamby's conscience.
"They're spending taxpayer money in one area down there when you're ignoring the rest of the county. What if you lived up here where there are no water lines, but you're paying for waterlines and fire hydrants for those people," Hamby said. "I understand we have to go where Etowah is going to expand water. They told us where they were going. We had no say so."
Commission Chairman Mike Berg called the decision wrong.
"I'm very disappointed that we did not provide the opportunity for citizens all over this county, not just at Kilough and Nix Bridge, to have advanced fire protection in the future," he said. "This is a 10-30 year deal. They're not going to pull up those lines anytime in the future, so we're going to be stuck with the 8-inch lines that will not provide adequate protection with the fire hydrants because of water flow. I just think it's wrong."
McNeill said residents will continue to pursue avenues for better fire protection.
"Despite the setback...we will stay engaged until we get fire protection for all who reside in Dawson County," he said.