In a brief meeting last week, the Oconee County Board of Commissioners tentatively approved spending $547,220 as the county’s share of the cost of design services for the upgrade of the Bear Creek Water Treatment Plant in Jackson County.
The Upper Oconee Water Basin Authority has awarded a $2.3 million contract to Jacobs Engineering Group, an international professional services firm with offices in Atlanta, for the upgrade of the water treatment facility from 21 million gallons per day to 42 million gallons per day.
At its meeting in May, the Authority agreed that Oconee County will get an additional 5 million gallons per day from the upgraded treatment facility, Barrow County will get 6.25 million gallons per day, and Jackson County will get 9.75 million gallons per day.
Athens-Clarke County is a member of the Upper Oconee Water Basin Authority, but it has its own water treatment plant and will not take water from the expanded treatment plant.
County Administrator Justin Kirouac said after the meeting on Tuesday that the current estimated cost of construction of the expanded treatment plant is $58.5 million, with Oconee County’s share at $13.9 million.
Approval of the expenditure for the Bear Creek treatment plant upgrade was put on the consent agenda, meaning final action will be taken on Nov. 7, when the Board also will hear three relatively minor zoning requests.
The County also has announced that the next Town Hall meeting on Nov. 15 will focus on the changes to the homestead exemptions that will be on the ballot in May and that it is seeking volunteers to participate in invasive species removal at Heritage Park.
Bear Creek And Hard Labor Creek Reservoirs
Oconee County currently is allocated 4 million gallons per day from the Bear Creek Reservoir, and Kirouac told the Board on Tuesday that the plant expansion “will cement Oconee County’s water supply needs for the foreseeable future.”
Funding will come from the Water Resources Department, which operates as an enterprise fund, meaning it is funded based on the fees it charges water and sewer customers.
Oconee County also is a partner with Walton County in the Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir in southeast Walton County.
On Oct. 19, the Hard Labor Creek Reservoir Management Board voted to revise its plans for construction of a water treatment plant on that reservoir from 16 million gallons per day to 12 million gallons per day because of costs.
Oconee County, the junior partner with Walton County in the reservoir project, is budgeted to pay $20.8 million for the construction of the water treatment plant, though it does not need the water and all of the treated water will go to Walton County.
Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chair John Daniell told the Walton County Water and Sewer Authority, which has ultimate control over the project, that Oconee County will contribute only $12 million at this point.
Walton County agreed to cover the additional expenses, with Oconee County making up the difference at some point in the future when it decides it needs water from the reservoir.
No transmission lines exist to bring the water from the treatment plant in Walton County to Oconee County, while the transmission lines from the Bear Creek Reservoir to Oconee County currently are being used.
Other Action On Tuesday
At the meeting on Tuesday, the Board of Commissioners also approved a lighting agreement with the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) for what Public Works Director Jody Woodall identified as four intersections being improved as part of the transformation of SR 316 in the county.
The identified intersections are at Dials Mill Road/Dials Mill Extension, at Jimmy Daniell Road, at Virgil Langford Road, and at the Oconee Connector.
These are the first of the SR 316 intersection improvements scheduled in the county, with construction scheduled to begin in 2024 at Jimmy Daniell Road, Virgil Langford Road, and the Oconee Connector and in 2025 at Dials Mill Road/Dials Mill Extension.
According to the agreement approved by the Board, GDOT will assume the costs of installation of the lights at these intersections, and the county will be responsible for the monthly electricity charges once they are installed.
GDOT will use federal funds for installation of the lights, according to the agreement.
The Board also put on its consent agenda for action on Nov. 7 a change order for Fire Engine 701 at Station Number 7 in Bogart.
Kirouac told the Board that additional equipment will be added to the Sutphen Fire Engine and that Bogart has agreed to cover the additional cost of $29,820.
The Oconee County Parks and Recreation Department and the Keep Oconee County Beautiful Commission, in partnership with Athens Land Trust and Kel-Mac Saddle Club, will host Invasive Species Plant Removal Work Days at Heritage Park this fall and winter.
Volunteers and staff will work to remove Autumn Olive, a plant that is crowding out native species and causing ecological harm to the local forest and its inhabitants, according to the announcement of the program.
No training or experience is necessary to participate in this work day. Volunteers will be trained in identification and removal of invasive plant species, and tools will be provided.
Work days will take place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., weather permitting, on the Nov. 7 and 21, December 5 and 19, Jan. 2, 16, and 30, and Feb. 13 and 27.
Registration is required for this event.
Additional information and a registration form are HERE.
Heritage Park is located at 2543 Macon Highway, in the far south of the county.
The video of the Oct. 31, 2023, meeting of the Board of Commissioners is below.
Kirouac began discussion of the Bear Creek Reservoir at 6:08 in the video.