September 1, 2007
CAN HAPPEN IN JASPER COUNTY
Many of you
probably don’t know there is already a “Bear Creek Reservoir”
in Georgia. This reservoir is owned by Athens-Clarke County,
Jackson County, Oconee County, and Barrow County.
Authorities depend on growth and lots of it. When all those
“population predictions” don’t pan out, it spells trouble
for the water authority—and the taxpayers.
story from Jackson County—Jefferson, GA. It can happen here
in Jasper County too. The Jasper County WSA just had a “special
tax” assessed to help them make ends meet. See: http://www.taxdogs.com/JCWSA050107.htm
Water Authority asks for
bailout with Bear Creek
By Merritt Melancon, Staff Writer Monday,
August 13, 2007, Athens Banner-Herald
The Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority is
asking the Jackson County Board of Commissioners to
toss a life preserver to keep it from going under
in the sea of debt accrued during the construction
of Bear Creek Reservoir.
The authority has made $135,000 monthly
payments since 2003 on its $20 million
share of debt from the construction of the reservoir
that serves Oconee, Clarke, Barrow and Jackson counties.
But as the number of
new customers slows - and existing customers buy less
water during drought - the authority asked the Jackson
County government to take over the payments temporarily,
perhaps for several years.
The board of the water and sewerage authority and
the Jackson County Commission will hold a joint meeting
at 5:30 p.m. today to discuss the details of the almost-certain
debt-relief plan, said Leonard Myers, Jackson County's
interim county manager.
is the second Athens-Banner Herald article detailing Jackson
County’s experience with promises to pay for borrowing
by selling water. Also note the comments about development.
Either way taxpayer’s lose. We pay with property taxes or
we pay for more development with all the related problems.
All this sounds like Jasper County WSA and their financial
agrees to take Bear Creek debt
All taxpayers, even well users,
on the hook
By Merritt Melancon, Staff Writer,
Wednesday, August 15, 2007 http://www.onlineathens.com/stories/081507/news_20070815072.shtml
JEFFERSON - The Jackson County Board of Commissioners
will temporarily take over payments on Bear Creek
Reservoir from the county's independent water and
sewer authority starting in January.
The annual $1.6 million
obligation will be shouldered by all Jackson County
tax payers, including those who currently
draw their water service through other separate municipal
water systems and those who have private wells.
Bonds to pay for Jackson County's share of the 505-acre,
four-county reservoir were issued by the Jackson County
Water and Sewerage Authority during the reservoir's
construction in the late 1990s. Although the bonds
were in the authority's name, they were guaranteed
by the county.
At the time, commissioners believed that revenue from
water and sewer bills would be enough to cover the
monthly $135,000 debt payments. But
new water customers have been slow to tap on, and
the authority has recently taken on more debt to build
infrastructure county officials believe is vital to
economic development, authority board
member Alex Bryan said Tuesday.
Even with increased water rates, the authority can't
continue to make payments on the 5-year-old reservoir
that Jackson County shares with Oconee, Clarke and
Barrow counties, said Erik Klerk, manager of the Jackson
County Water and Sewerage Authority. "We're still
going to have a retail rate increase to help cover
our costs even if the county takes over the payments,"
While the authority has taken a financial hit this
summer as water sales dropped nearly 25 million gallons
a month due to outdoor watering restrictions,
the utility already had trouble finding customers
to pay for several recent expansions,
In one case, the authority found itself $5 million
in debt after running sewer lines to the Valentine
Industrial Park. Toyota had proposed a facility there,
and expected to need 133,000 gallons of sewer service
a day. But when plans for the site were finalized,
the company only required 3,000 gallons a day of sewer
service, Bryan said. While water and sewer construction
didn't bring revenue to the water utility, that infrastructure
did attract development that grew the tax base.
"We have already invested the money into these
projects," Bryan said. "And some of those
projects are bringing in thousands of dollars in ad
valorem taxes to the county. It should eventually
draw more development to that area, and that should
bring us more customers. But we haven't seen those
But while commissioners at Tuesday's meeting said
the decision to pay part of the reservoir debt would
benefit both the local government and the water authority,
one Commerce official said city residents would pay
for water infrastructure for themselves and again
for county residents.
"Our citizens will be paying for sewer and water
twice, but only receiving it once," said Steve
McKown, assistant city manager for Commerce.
Commissioners and authority board members countered
that economic development is good for the entire county
and will lower the tax burden on everyone, even those
who pay the city of Commerce for water service.
TWG takes exception
to the statement “economic development is good for the entire
county and will lower the tax burden on everyone.” Have
you ever heard of any county ever lowering taxes when they
have plenty of “commercial and industrial”? If you have
let us know. Newton and Henry Counties are prime examples.
They are overflowing with commercial and industrial properties,
yet the property taxes continue to go UP each year.
** To keep the taxpayers of Jasper County, Georgia informed
as to where and how
their tax dollars are being spent.
** To keep the taxpayers abreast of local policies and
discussed and enacted.
** We advocate more open government, less government spending,
and lower property taxes.