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Commissioners reevaluating water authoritys proposal
Agreement would place lines for hydrants in underserved area
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County commissioners are set to revisit a proposed intergovernmental agreement that, if approved, would result in the installation of fire hydrants in a currently underserved area.

The Dawson County Board of Commissioners has until Friday to accept a waterline partnership with Etowah Water and Sewer Authority.

Foregoing the proposed agreement would likely mean areas along Nix Bridge and Kilough Church roads will not get fire hydrants anytime in the next three decades.

"It's extremely frustrating, because to me it's a no-brainer," said Commission Chairman Mike Berg. "Why wouldn't you want the best service you could get, especially when it's not going to cost you that much?"

The authority has immediate plans to replace waterlines in the area. If an agreement cannot be reached with the county, 8-inch waterlines will be installed. Hydrants, however, require 12-inch lines.

The proposed partnership calls for a long-term (20-25 years) intergovernmental agreement with the county paying $5,000 for each hydrant, while the authority would be responsible for the waterlines.

"[Etowah] has been very generous with us in pricing out fire hydrants and line costs. They're going to absorb about 77 percent of the line costs of going from an 8-inch to 12-inch lines," Berg said. "And we'd be paying $5,000 a hydrant that costs about $3,500 on an 8-inch line and $4,500 on a 12-inch line.

"So whatever is left after the hydrant cost will go toward the expansion of the lines from 8-inch to 12."

Berg said the authority is poised to absorb about 78 percent of the line cost.

The county commission in early April rejected the authority's proposed contract, opting instead for a five-year agreement and paying $3,500 per hydrant.

Commissioner Jimmy Hamby, who made the motion, said hydrants cost $3,200, so the authority would be making about 9 percent on each.

"Nine percent over the next five years is fair," he said April 7.

Hamby's motion was approved 3-1. District 2 Commissioner James Swafford voted against the measure.

Funding for the county's portion of the project is available, according to Berg who added there is $100,000 set aside from special purpose local options sales tax revenue.

"We've already collected the money for that. Initially, in SPLOST IV, there was money for hydrants. They used it instead to build a fire station. They money really isn't the issue," he said. "The real issue is that it will be a generation of people before fire hydrants can be talked about in the area again, because once the 8-inch line goes down, we'll never have enough water capacity to put fire hydrants down there.

"You're not going to dig up those lines later and lay 12-inch lines."

Currently, there are more than 1,500 residents living off Nix Bridge Road and another 1,000 in the Kilough Church Road area.

"I'll bet you I've had 30-40 phone calls, emails. I live down in that area, so I hear from my neighbors, as well as others, that just can't understand why we wouldn't want the best protection we could get," Berg said.

A contingency of residents living in the effective area are planning to be at Thursday's 6 p.m. county commission meeting.

Brooke Anderson, water authority general manager, said his board was disappointed in the county's vote.

"We believe the way the agreement was drafted with staff provided a good partnership between the county and Etowah," he said. "We believe $5,000 was fair and very reasonable to the county."

"This partnership will allow both entities to work together to provide the highest possible service to the citizens."