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Residents vow to fight for hydrants
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Residents living in the areas of Kilough and Nix Bridge roads are vowing to continue their fight to get fire hydrants in the area.

"After election results become available, we will meet individually with those elected to reconfirm or to ascertain their position on the intergovernmental agreement," said Dick McNeill, spokesman for a homeowner advocacy group known as the Kilough Task Force.

County commissioners earlier this month struck down a proposed intergovernmental agreement in which Etowah Water and Sewer Authority suggested a partnership with the Dawson County Board of Commissions that would lead the way for fire hydrants to be connected to waterlines in the area.

According to the initial proposal, the authority would install 12-inch waterlines if the county would pay $5,000 each for hydrants and sign a 25-year contract with the water authority.

After researching the request, District 3 Commissioner Jimmy Hamby made a motion to counter the proposal with a $3,500 per hydrant cost and a five-year contract, saying he was not comfortable holding the county to a long-term deal that he described as writing Etowah a blank check.

"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," 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."

Commissioners Sharon Fausett and Julie Hughes Nix also voted against Etowah's proposal.

Etowah responded with a few tweaks to the authority's original proposal, but did not accept the county's negotiation, which in turn meant that 8-inch waterlines would be installed instead of the required 12-inch lines needed for hydrants.

"Etowah flatly rejected our proposal and sent back the original offer and gave us a deadline of May 5," Nix said in an email to McNeill. "We just don't know what the economy will do and to lock Dawson County into a contract that doesn't expire until 2041 is simply irresponsible."

McNeill and others said they are prepared to continue the fight, not just for his neighbors, but for all of Dawson County.

"I'm passionate about fire protection. The need for fire hydrants applies to 65 percent plus of Dawson County. I'll remain engaged until it's certain all residents in Dawson County will, over time, get hydrants needed for fire protection," he said.

Ebby Hamby, who lives in the Overlook neighborhood on Lake Lanier, said she has been in contact with neighbors who are considering a class action lawsuit regarding the vote.

Commission Chairman Mike Berg, who is in support of Etowah's agreement, said he'll encourage residents to consider alternatives.

The possibility of revisiting the matter is not dead, according to Nix.

"Some members of the Dawson County Board of Commissioners have expressed a willingness to revisit this topic and may be willing to compromise over the price and contract length with Etowah," Nix said.