Commissioners considering federal loan application for county-wide water

By Linton Johnson linton@wsgcradio.com

The Elbert County Board of Commissioners met Monday and discussed the possibility of seeking a federal loan for the development of a water infrastructure system for the unincorporated areas of the county.
County Administrator Bob Thomas told the commissioners that with $4 billion in loan funding now available from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, perhaps now is the time to look at a county-wide water system, working with the City of Elberton, which provides water to its residents and certain unincorporated parts of the county.
“Other counties surrounding us have done this, and we have done some studies in the past,” Thomas said. “We would hope that there would be grant money available for counties our size because of it being a rural county, where the costs are much more expensive in the county trying to run water because the population is not close together. We know it’s going to be an expensive proposition, and I would like for us to continue this dialogue and at some point maybe submit an application because you have to go through the application process before they will tell you how much grant money they will allow you.”
Commission Chairman Tommy Lyon said the county’s last such effort was 10 years ago, but the grant funding available was not sufficient to make the project work financially.
”We’d like to have county-wide water everywhere,” Lyon said. “There are places we’re having trouble with water. It’s where you live, and we understand it. We would someday like to have water all through the county. That’s a precious commodity.”
Thomas said county officials would continue studying the feasibility of pursuing the federal loan for water expansion in the weeks ahead.
Also Monday, the commissioners approved a request from the local Development Authority to develop a request for qualifications for the site plan and construction of a speculative industrial building in the Industrial Park on Mineral Springs Road. Thomas further recommended the county establish a committee to help guide the steps toward developing the spec building.
The administrator suggested the committee be made up of two commissioners, County Financial Officer Phil Pitts, a representative of the local financial community and one or two more citizens. Lyon said the board will consider potential members and be ready to vote on the committee at its September meeting.
In other action, the commissioners approved a renewal of the $214,600 contract for public transportation as part of the county’s senior citizens program, an addition to the county’s personnel policy on distracted driving to comply with Georgia’s new hands-free law, changes to the county fire board and a low bid of $14,250 for replacing the roof on the Longstreet Volunteer Fire Department building.
The board also heard first reading of a proposed ordinance to regulate and administer small solar facilities and larger solar farms in Elbert County.
The commissioners approved a rezoning request for three acres on Olaff McCall Road from residential to general business for a covered boat storage facility but rejected a request to rezone 181 acres on William Smith Road and Luther Burton Road from agricultural to industrial use.

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