Mayor: Canton must hold on to reservoir
by Marcus E. Howard
mhoward@cherokeetribune.com
September 27, 2012 02:09 AM | 1722 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CANTON – Canton Mayor Gene Hobgood now says the city should be able to meet its monthly debt service payments without needing to sell its share of Hickory Log Creek Reservoir.

In the past, he and other officials have voiced frustration with the Cobb County-Marietta Water Authority, which jointly owns and operates the reservoir.

Hobgood said Wednesday that the city is in better financial shape than it was several years ago and will need to hold on to the reservoir to meet the needs of future generations.

“I’ve pretty much concluded that we need to keep our reservoir and that we have made it for almost five years now with some financial difficulty doing so, but we have shown that we can definitely keep moving forward slowly and meet our debt service,” said Hobgood.

Furthermore, the city will soon be paying off smaller debt service amounts over the next two years, he said.

“We’re not in as big a bind today as we were several years ago,” Hobgood said of the city’s coffers. “We don’t necessarily have the same need to get rid of our reservoir, even part of it.”

The mayor’s position is a turnaround from the one he seemed to express just last week ahead of the city council’s meeting at which the reservoir was briefly discussed.

Canton in the last year attempted to unload its share of the reservoir but was met with opposition by the water authority due to a first right of refusal agreement, which only allows the city to sell its share if Cobb agrees to the buyer.

On April 16, the authority unanimously rejected the mayor’s request to give up its say in who the city can sell its 25 percent stake to.

As result of the conflict, plans stalled for installing a new supervisory control and data acquisition, or SCADA, computer monitoring system to remotely monitor reservoir and dam activity, and construction of a reservoir office, much to the disappointment of the authority.

But in recent weeks those plans seem to be picking up speed after the Canton City Council unanimously agreed last Thursday to formalize its approval to advertise SCADA for bidding.

Canton is responsible for paying 25 percent of the SCADA system’s estimated $1 million price tag. The authority had said it worked on the system’s design for two years and has been ready to take it to bid for months now to be ready for next summer, when water demand is highest.

At the earliest, the SCADA project – the bulk of which involves electronic equipment built offsite – would be completed by mid-summer, said authority general manager Glenn Page.

“It’s the eyes and ears of the project,” said Page of SCADA. “It’s the way that our operator both collects and maintains data.”

Page said negotiations regarding the needs of the reservoir office are ongoing. He said it’s now designed to house offices of the reservoir’s manager and operator. However, another office for a possible third staffer is also included in the design, which also features a conference room, computer room, water lab and one restroom.

The latest design estimate for construction of the office totaled $450,000, said Page. But he said a few contractors have advised the authority that it could be built for as much as $100,000 less.

On Tuesday morning, the two entities conducted a board of managers meeting in which the two projects were on the agenda to be discussed at the authority’s office in Marietta.

“I cannot speak to the ultimate award of bids for either of the projects until the bid amounts are presented and evaluated,” said Canton City Manager Scott Wood. “However, there appears to be a recognition on the part of city council that both projects are important to the completion, operational integrity and ongoing safety of the reservoir.”

While Hobgood said he is sure the city can keep the reservoir, convincing council members who have been equally at odds with the authority may prove to be more difficult. The mayor said he sent out an email last week that informed them of his opinion.

“As difficult as it is for us to keep because of the debt, I think that the city will ultimately need that reservoir,” Hobgood said. “The city will grow and as it grows it will need more and more water.”

The reservoir, located in north Canton, covers 414 acres with nearly 15 miles of shoreline and holds 6 billion gallons of water. The dam is 180 feet high. The reservoir is intended as a back-up water source in times of drought. There is a 1.5-mile pipeline to release water into the Etowah River, which then flows down into Lake Allatoona.

In 2000, the authority and Canton agreed to build the reservoir at a projected cost of $20 million, with the authority owning 75 percent and Canton owning 25 percent. The actual cost, however, ended up totaling $100 million.
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