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Roswell Presents Water Plant Specifics, Residents Concerned about Location, Finances

At one of two public hearings Monday, Roswell residents came out to learn about a proposed water plant. The big concerns were the plant's location by Waller Park and the financing.

The city of Roswell presented specifics about a proposed new water plant during two public meetings Monday, March 19; but some city residents expressed concerns, saying they were opposed to its location by Waller Park and questioning of the financing.

The city is proposing a $15.9 million new plant to replace an existing one that officials say is outdated and in need of costly repairs. By building a new plant, the city estimates saving $11.6 million over 20 years.

To finance the plant, the city proposes borrowing $14.5 million from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA). An additional $1.3 million would come from money already set aside from water customer revenues. And a water rate increase of $1 per month is being considered for the city’s 14,500 residential and business customers, according to staff.

At the first of two public hearings Monday, about 25 people came out to ask questions and express concerns. The water plant’s proposed location, up the street from the current plant on Dobbs Drive, raised lively discussion among residents who expressed not “in my backyard” viewpoints.

It would ruin the aesthetics of ball fields located at Waller Park, according to one resident.

“As a [Roswell] resident and a water customer, I very much appreciate your efforts to expand water capacity. I’m very opposed to putting the water tank on that field,” said Seth Freedman.

However, staff say the location was chosen because it’s near Big Creek, where Roswell gets its water, and the elevation makes it more efficient to pump water to the treatment plant, said Dan Skalsky, an engineer who was hired by the city for the project.

Once the existing plant is torn down, new ball fields and parking would be added, he said.

Stuart Moring, director of the Public Works/Environmental Department for the city of Roswell, said the city’s parks department gave input and said there is a greater demand for rectangular fields, which would be provided.

The current plant is nearly 80 years old, and if it is not replaced, costly repairs will be passed along to water customers, city officials say. By building a new plant, the city will save about $460,000 a year on water currently purchased from Fulton County, realizing savings on plant repairs that could cost up to $1 million every few years.

One resident asked why the city doesn’t abandon water service and purchase all of its water from Fulton County.

That has been considered, Moring said, but Fulton County wasn’t interested and Roswell looks at a variety of sources for water, which grows scarcer every year in metro Atlanta. Beginning in the fall, .

Because of such conservation efforts, Roswell was designated a WaterFirst Community by the state’s Department of Community Affairs, making it eligible for a reduced interest rate on a proposed loan from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority – from 2.13 percent to 1.13 percent.

Lee Fleck, a Roswell resident who has water service with Fulton County, said he questions how the city will pay the difference between projected savings and the amount borrowed. He is worried the difference will be made up with tax dollars.

“That’s going to hit me in the pocket book,” he said. “I’m not going to pay to support the people that get their water from the city of Roswell.”

By city ordinance and policy, city water service is required to be self-sustaining from customer rates, according to Moring. (Editor's Note: We've revised this attribution from a previous statement, which attached the policy to a state law.)

None of the proposed options have been approved by the . A committee of the Roswell City Council will consider next steps at its meeting on April 10. The meeting is open to the public.

Roswell residents are also encouraged to contact the city with any questions or concerns.

What do you think of the city's proposed water plant?

Lisa March 20, 2012 at 11:52 AM
It did come out in this meeting that the most economical place to put this plant and storage tank was on the lower multi use field closest to the creek and that was the ideal location considered and the first one considered by the consultants. But Parks and rec didn't want to give up the field to the detriment of the adjoining neighborhood and the overall aesthetics of the park. There are alternatives that would make everyone happy.
Lee Fleck March 20, 2012 at 02:22 PM
Mark Twain once said “if you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything “. Bottom line, the reason that the proposed water plant can be financed with a mere $1.00 per month base rate fee increase is because the city has been over billing it customers for years and this annual over billing will now be used to tote-the-note.. Now what remains for the city to figure out is how it will cover the short term debt associated with the 18 month lapse in time before the proposed water plant is operational and producing the cost savings that have been projected. During that short time frame, the Water Enterprise Fund will generate in the vicinity of a million dollars of debt that the city will have to pay from the general day-to-day operational fund which all of Roswell’s 27,000 property owners pay for. The easiest way to solve that dilemma is to use existing Water Fund reserves totaling $1.3 million to cover that short term debt and increase the loan amount accordingly. If Roswel's City Council can resolve that hurdle they will insure the Water Fund remains fully self-funded. Otherwise the Water Fund shareholders should have the final say.
Nancy Catalino March 20, 2012 at 09:43 PM
I went to the evening meeting, and we were only presented with one option of where the 50' tall storage tank would go. Were there other choices presented to council that weren't presented to the citizens at the public meetings? If so, it would've been nice to know the other location choices for this WWII looking bunker. The tank, in its present location as presented, will dwarf the adjacent playground, and is an eyesore, to say the least, as you drive up to the park along Dobbs Dr. There seems to be a disconnect between what is being proposed for the Groveway Community improvements and Waller Park water storage tank. According to the Neighbor last week, Groveway improvements are "based on how a neighborhood will look when projects are complete. Frontage and building designs are more important than building use. Streetscape, landscaping, pedestrian areas are crucial to the community feel." I don't think building a 50' tall water storage tank adjacent to the road winding through Waller Park will do much to enhance the "community feel" of Roswell. I look forward to hearing about other choices for the placement of the water storage tank at Waller Park.
Lee Fleck March 23, 2012 at 03:47 AM
As a professional who built a water plant, it finally appears that slowly but surely the facts are coming to the surface. The “Fiscal Capacity Analysis” presented makes it apparent that since the last water rate increase in 2009, the City has generated significantly more revenue. My concerns have always been related to funding the loan and what would be the carrying costs from the time the “line of credit” was accessed before the new plant became fully operational and produces the anticipated savings. As a result of these public meetings, it is apparent that funds are available due to the fact that the City has been over-billing its water customers. The GEFA loan is structured as a commercial construction loan in that the principal repayment does not begin until after the plant is completed and accepted by EPD. During the construction period, interest only payments will be made and will in fact be supported by the Water Fund, insuring that this fund remains self-sufficient as required by state law. The proposed in-feed tank can easily be relocated. Pumps can easily replace gravity. Lower profile tanks can be utilized, but soccer practice fields may have to be forfeited. The existing plant has been extensively refurbished and has been evaluated by professionals as having a life expectancy through 2020. So what is the rush to replace it? Ratepayers should have the final say, if not with the proposed plant, then with the ballot box.

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