Saturday, May 30, 2009
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CONYERS - The federal stimulus funding Rockdale County officials pursued for repairs to the Lakefield Dam is no longer a possibility and has officials considering previous options for funding sources. Rockdale County received a $2.6 million federal grant for the project in 1996 from the Environmental Protection Agency, the year before the state deemed the dam unsafe in 1997.Officials were looking to supplement funding for the estimated $4.5 million project with an American Reinvestment and Recovery Act loan earlier this year. "It was determined that the terms of the EPA grant money would not allow ARRA money to be used for the local match," said Michael Smith, Rockdale County Capital and Community Improvements general manager. Now, the Rockdale County Board of Commissioners is back to accepting a $1.5 million Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority loan it first considered in February."I'm optimistic we won't need all that because of the construction market right now," Smith told commissioners during Monday's work session.The GEFA loan would obligate the county for 20 years at 3 percent interest and at a 2-percent closing fee.The county's payments would come out of the stormwater division's 2010 budget, Finance Director Roselyn Miller explained to the board.The county has spent a previously reported $900,000 for design and engineering on the project.Smith explained the annual inspection from Safe Dams, part of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, did not explain in detail how unsafe the dam is.But now the bottom of the dam is showing signs of seepage, Smith told the board.The lake is located behind the Conyers Honda dealership and Sonny's Barbeque and is fed by a watershed covering the Ga. Highway 138 business corridor from Interstate 20 down to the intersection of Ga. 138 and Ga. Highway 20. The county has sought recently to make improvements at the lake to improve storm water management in the area and upgrade the dam.The water from the lake eventually drains into Snapping Shoals Creek and then into the Yellow River.Six structures are in jeopardy if the dam were to fail, explained Smith after the meeting, and others on Saxony Drive may be affected by erosion and flooding.Smith told commissioners the dam does not present any immediate danger.Smith further explained after the meeting that the project really started in 2003 and working with state entities slowed down the process.And before the project can go out to bid for construction, the county also still has to settle with property owners.The county owns only the western half of the dam through a private donation. But agreements for easements or acquiring the property from residents still have to be settled."They don't have a problem with us fixing the dam. What has to be worked out is the compensation for their property," Smith explained following the work session.Smith could not go in to particulars regarding compensation because of legal reasons.Plans are not just to fix the structure of the dam. There are some hydraulic problems with the dam where flooding needs to be controlled during storms, explained Smith.In an effort to "clear the air," Rockdale County Commission Chairman Richard Oden said the length of the project stems from others "sitting on their hands, passing the buck.""This is an issue that predates this administration. Let's be clear about that," Oden said. Though it may take longer, local resident John Bickford said he thought the cheapest solution would be to work to get the dam taken off the unsafe dam list."But I don't think this county needs to spend any more money on that project," Bickford said.And if a loan is taken out, Bickford thinks the county should get a final cost estimate before taking out the loan.Alena Parker can be reached at email@example.com.