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3-11-05 Reservoirs, Consultants, Cost Overruns, Governors, and Attorney Tommy Craig

Barnes offered to purchase the reservoir from the city and county after Increased engineering costs ….. attorney fees for changing the 404 permit to increase the pool size, and higher than anticipated costs of moving a pump station that sent the project's budget soaring $ 7 million over by May 2001. Barnes also added cost to the project by having the city and county purchase 265 additional acres surrounding the lake, putting in a footbridge etc…… ....... Since Barnes left office, however, Georgia's revenues have fallen sharply and new governor Sonny Perdue is not keen to take on the $ 13.7 million debt associated with the project.

AVOC

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March 6, 2005

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Reservoirs, Consultants, Cost Overruns, Governors, and Attorney Tommy Craig

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By Wendell Dawson, Editor, AVOC, Inc

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The Yahoola Reservoir project in Dahlonega and Lumpkin County has a long history of cooperation of governments and permitting processes that eventually led to serious costs overruns.   Some arrangements and promises were made with Governor Barnes involving some extra park area.   Covington Attorney Tommy Craig worked on the project as a consultant.

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With State budget constraints, Governor Perdue balked at funding the whole thing.  

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According to the March 3, 2005 edition of the Dahlonega Nugget, Dahlonega and Lumpkin County currently owe GEFA $ 15,419,916.This is much more than had been anticipated and is causing problems for the two governments.For more detail on state involvement, see: http://avoc.info/info/article.php?article=781

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The articles and links referenced below deal with the project and some related issues.Any government or authority considering a regional reservoir would do well to do a case study on the Dahlonega- Yahoola Reservoir before starting.Developing a water resource is a long, tedious and expensive process.

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The Dahlonega Nugget

http://www.thedahloneganugget.com/articles/2005/03/03/news/01reservoir.txt

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March 3, 2005

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Governor responds to reservoir offer and FOI request

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By Sharon Hall

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Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue will not make a final decision on whether or not to accept or reject a joint Dahlonega-Lumpkin County proposal to buy back the Yahoola Creek Reservoir until the state conducts an audit of both city and county governments.
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"The governor hasn't said no," says Dahlonega City Manager Bill Lewis, "and I think that's a good sign."

The proposal was submitted to Perdue Jan. 27. Neither city nor county officials have released particulars of the proposal, and would not, they said, until the governor responded to it. And, they have made no offer to release the information since receiving the governor's reply.
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However, the governor's office did respond last week to a freedom of information request made by The Nugget.

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It sent a copy of the cover letter signed by Dahlonega Mayor Gary McCullough and Lumpkin County Board Chairman Steven Gooch, along with the joint proposal for restructuring the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority note on the reservoir.
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Dahlonega and Lumpkin County currently owe GEFA $ 15,419,916. The joint proposal asks the state to forgive $ 1,689,916 in accrued interest and convert one-half of the remaining debt ($ 6,865,000) to a grant. The proposal asks that the remaining amount - nearly $ 7 million - be amortized at 2 percent over 30 years.

If accepted, each government entity would be responsible for $ 152,431 annually.
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When making the offer, the cover letter states, the city and county "considered the current and future financial obligations of both governments."
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The county is about halfway into a SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) that is paying off a large debt left by the previous administration. A new courthouse and library as well as large outlays for infrastructure at Georgia 400 and Highway 60 are on the county's financial horizon, the letter states.
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The city, the letter states, is "facing nearly $ 50 million in water and sewer improvements in the next 15 years."
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The state will not conduct a comprehensive audit of local government. What they want to see, Lewis says, is the latest financial statement, a copy of the 2004 audit, and any projections for future needs over the next 12-15 years. The city hopes to have the information to GEFA this week.
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The county sent its audit, financial statement and a list of current projects, but it has no long-term capital program that would include the new courthouse and library mentioned in the proposal's cover letter.
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"We will be working on that," said county manager Stan Kelley. "It's something we've identified that we need to get done. We've sent them
all we have, and told them if they need more to let us know."


The Dahlonega Nugget

 http://www.thedahloneganugget.com/articles/2005/01/26/news/03reservoir.txt

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January 26, 2005

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City, county set meeting to discuss reservoir

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By Sharon Hall

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Gov. Sonny Perdue didn't come right out and say he will not honor an agreement made by former governor Roy Barnes to take over financial responsibility for the Yahoola Creek Reservoir. He did say he "thought it would be better for us to own it ourselves and not transfer it to the state," said Lumpkin County Commission Chair Steve Gooch. Gooch and Dahlonega City Manager Bill Lewis met with the governor recently to discuss the reservoir and its fate.
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Barnes offered to purchase the reservoir from the city and county after Increased engineering costs, the necessity of purchasing additional land to meet new Environmental Protection Division requirements for wetlands and trout stream mitigation, attorney fees for changing the 404 permit to increase the pool size, and higher than anticipated costs of moving a pump station at Wimpy Mill Road sent the project's budget soaring $ 7 million over by May 2001.

Barnes also added cost to the project by having the city and county purchase 265 additional acres surrounding the lake, putting in a footbridge and placing an additional intake on the Highway 115 side of the lake.
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Since Barnes left office, however, Georgia's revenues have fallen sharply and new governor Sonny Perdue is not keen to take on the $ 13.7 million debt associated with the project.
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Lewis and Gooch met Monday with Paul Burke, executive director of Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority, the agency that holds the note on the project. Two issues they planned to discuss were a discounted loan and the possibility of a long-term (30-40 years) loan - but he did say there were no plans at all to build a state park there, as Gov. Barnes planned. That's one thing we'll be talking to Burke about. We bought that property at the state's behest.

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"This gives the city and county lots of options to consider, but in my opinion, it definitely needs to remain in the public sector and not be sold into private hands."…….


2-17-05 Open Records Conflict in Lumpkin County

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The Dahlonega Nugget

 http://www.thedahloneganugget.com/articles/2005/02/17/news/01reservoir.txt

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February 17, 2005

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City, county refuse to reveal reservoir offer

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City and county officials have decided not to reveal the details of a joint proposal to the state for the buy-back of the Yahoola Creek Reservoir until Gov. Sonny Perdue has reviewed it and made a decision to accept or pass on the offer.
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A joint city/county meeting to hammer out the deal was also closed to the public. "We don't want the governor to see it in the press before he's had the opportunity to see the offer," said District 4 County Commissioner Marvin Martin. "He may feel we are trying to play hardball and force his hand. I think we need to wait until we get a response back from him."
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"We were told up front, on the first trip we made, that the governor didn't want this to become something political," said Clarence Stowers, commissioner for District 3. "He told us he didn't want any pressure put on."
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"Our city and county representatives delivered the proposal to the governor's office and we wanted to give the governor an opportunity to review this proposal.  In any negotiations a period of consideration must be given. The best interest of the people of Lumpkin County has guided my decision," said Deborah Hutcheson, District 2 county commissioner.
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"The governor probably hasn't even seen it yet," City Manager Bill Lewis said Friday, the day after the proposal was delivered to Atlanta.

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"If we released the offer the governor might think the city and county were using the press to pressure him. There's about $ 6 million at stake. My job is to look out for the best interest of the community and that's what I'm going to do."
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Both the city and county attorneys, as well as one attorney from the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia and one from the Georgia Municipal Association
advised the council and commission that the information fell under the requirements of the open records and meeting act, since it deals with land acquisition.
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"We were advised it was appropriate and we took that advice," said city councilman Terry Peters …....
"The deed to the reservoir already has the city and county on it. Working out how to pay for it, with public dollars, should be open, in my opinion."
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Hudson agrees. "These documents should be open; there is no legal basis for withholding them," he stated in a reply.
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He also said the situation did not present an exception to the open meetings requirements and should not have been discussed "behind closed doors."
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County attorney K.C. Horne said the city and county do "technically" own the property.
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"However, we are negotiating to buy back the future interest in the property," Horne said. "If the governor does not accept the offer, we will be bidding against private entities - the governor has said he will declare it surplus property and put it on the open market.
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"That's why this is protected under the open records law."
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Lewis said if the governor accepts the proposal, city tax dollars may not have to be used for the buy-back.
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"If the governor takes the offer as sent, I think we can absorb the cost without an ad valorem tax increase," he said, "but it has not been decided where the funds will come from."
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The Dahlonega Nugget hand delivered Freedom of Information requests to all city council members, county commissioners, and city and county managers Friday.
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A request was also mailed to the governor, though that office is not subject to open records requests.


RELATED ARTICLES:

State Agreeing to Buy Reservoir:“The city and county’s lack of money is the reason behind the agreement. It is estimated $ 8 million will be needed to complete the project. That’s a cost overrun of $ 2.5 million-$ 3 million. Neither the city nor the county have the money to spend….The Dahlonega Nugget. October 24, 2001… ..

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http://avoc.info/info/article.php?article=781

http://www.cityofdahlonega.com/images/Reservoir/resindex.html

3-23-04 Oconee-Walton & Newton-Jasper County Pursue Water Contracts

3-25-04 Jasper County Struggling With Water Issues-Newton Contract

 

Other Related Links

 

http://www.georgiaplanning.com/watertoolkit/Documents/LandWaterLink/LocalCoordDrivenWatershedMngmntYahoolaCreek.doc

 

http://www.gefa.org/search.cgi?complete=y   # 278

 

99-L99WR;   Dahlonega/Lumpkin County;   $ 13,703,000;   Construction of a dam and reservoir.


DAHLONEGA CITY COUNCIL

REGULAR MEETING
SEPTEMBER 11, 2000

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http://www.cityofdahlonega.com/pastmeet/09-11-00.html

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City of Dahlonega Minutes of Council

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Lumpkin County Board of Health Environmental Specialist David Wright asked for clarification on rules pertaining to issuance of septic permits for properties located in the vicinity of the new reservoir. Wyman Walden plans a subdivision with 23 single family homes near the reservoir property. Mayor Davis advised that he had spoken with Mr. Walden and he is planning city sewer for the proposed subdivision. Mayor Davis also advised that septic tanks cannot be located within 150 ft of the reservoir property per state law. Mr. Wright was requested to attend a meeting to be held with Tommy Craig to clarify all the rules andregulations……..

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Yahoola Reservoir Info

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http://www.railfan.net/lists/rshsdepot-digest/200202/msg00076.html


Also, See West GA Reservoir Discussion At DNR Board Meeting:

http://www.gadnr.org/minutes/board041802.html


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