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Time to pick up the pace with water/sewage expansion

With a growth wave pushing into north Georgia, it is time for the cities of Jasper, Talking Rock and Pickens County to get serious and get results with plans to expand their water/sewage infrastructure. [Nelson is grouped with Cherokee County].

There has been talk ad infinitum of the need for sewage and expanded water infrastructure to accommodate growth “when it arrives.” 

But, the growth wave is here now and the lines aren’t. This sums up the condition where we find ourselves and it won’t be easy, cheap or quick to correct. Further distressing, we aren’t confident that either the county or city even has solid plans to address the needs.

Among the challenges: 

• While there is some septic in Talking Rock, they need sewage to expand their downtown, suddenly a hot spot with the innovative brewery and forthcoming restaurant in the old train cars. 

• On the other side of the county, package plants or some type of limited sewage has been discussed at the Foothills commercial area even longer. Everyone agrees it is needed but it never gets from planning tables to lines in the ground.

• The county has a planned new water supply in Grandview Lake, which is a big deal as it is the first homemade (so to speak) source to be developed since the old Tate system, but the problem once again is it’s not under construction.

• The city of Jasper needs to expand their sewage plant and again the refrain, it’s in the planning/funding stage. 

• Recently at a county planning commission meeting there was discussion of how the county couldn’t serve a proposed 78 home subdivision’s water needs any time soon. They want to, eventually, but again, just aren’t ready.

• Highway 515 is reportedly well-served with water and sewage, but you get  very far from the fourlane and it is still wells and septic tanks.

We got beat to the punch by growth. People want water and in places they need sewage -- not more sets of plans. 

It’s unclear what effect will result by continually not being ready.

One might, perhaps a little naively, think “if you don’t build it, the crowds won’t come.” Not providing sewage and water might shut off the growth. The lack of ready-to-use infrastructure has been theorized as one reason Jasper got left behind with the last boom cycle in north Georgia.

But, failing to develop proper utilities as a means to control growth isn’t a sound strategy – kind of like a kid saying “if I don’t bring a notebook, the teacher can’t assign homework.” More likely, we’ll still get the growth that finds its way here in an uncontrolled, unorganized, unplanned manner. Or else we’ll get people still building and counting on future water/sewage that’s always being planned but not delivered. And one day, something, like a prolonged drought, will happen and it will be a full-on disaster.

Assuming that burying our heads in the sands isn’t the strategy, we encourage our county and city leaders to pick up their pace dramatically. A good start would be an open, public process looking at whether a joint county/city water and sewage authority makes sense. Maybe it does; maybe it doesn’t. It works other places, but every place is different, so it might not be optimal here. It is way past time for this option of combining all the water/sewage resources under a non-political authority gets the attention it deserves.

We’d like to see the city and county leaders appoint a study group with a tight deadline to look over the prospects of joining forces and then publicly present their conclusions ASAP. 

Regardless of how a joint approach plays out, we’d urge our government leaders to get it in gear with sewage and water expansion.