New water plant in Roswell park worries residents

JONATHAN COPSEY

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ROSWELL, Ga. – The city presented three new options Jan. 28 for a water tank in Waller Park on Dobbs Drive. The plans to upgrade and expand the existing water distribution plant near the park requires a new water tank and, due to the tricky topography of the area, requires a 10 million-gallon tank very close to the park and its nearby residents.

The first proposals by the city suggested placing the tank over one of the baseball fields. Resident displeasure forced the city to rethink the location, and now three options stand out.

Two of the tank locations are near the lower soccer field. The third option sits entirely within the existing site of the city Recreation and Parks Department operations area.

To build the third option, the city estimated it would cost up to $970,000 more than just the costs of the water tank, which is valued at about $2.8 million. The other two options, near the soccer field, range between $300,000 and 600,000 in additional costs.

The water plant ideally would be placed below the water tank, so gravity would assist in the pumping process and cut down on operating costs.

The city and its consultants looked at nearby areas that were higher than the plant. Within a mile radius of the plant, most of the viable areas are already built out with either commercial or residential construction. Waller Park and the area around it best fit the bill.

Nearby residents were concerned about how the tank would look from their homes as well as disturbing the park.

“Waller Park won’t be eradicated if you place a tank in the middle of it, but the park will be diminished,” said resident Seth Freedman. “Once you build this tank, we cannot relocate it.”

He advocated placing the tank in the operations yard.

“To have a tank in the middle of the park impacts what you can do there,” said resident Jim Hardy. “You might as well call it ‘water tank park.’”

The proposed tank is 50 feet high. This height is up to 10 feet lower than the height of the lighting used in the fields. There are options to hide the tank from view – it can be painted with murals or with nature scenes, such as trees. It can also have plantings in front of it.

Roswell has been in the water business for close to 80 years. Some of the systems currently used are original from that time period and are in dire need of replacement.

The cost of the new plant is estimated at $16 million. It is hoped the new plant would offset rising production costs and limit the need to buy excess water from Fulton County. Savings over 10 years are expected at $12 million.

Roswell’s water system serves about 14,500 residents, mostly in west Roswell in the historic district. Those using Roswell water pay $3.70 per 1,000 gallons of water. Fulton County water users pay $3.02 per 1,000 gallons and less once the rate cut takes effect.

When the city’s demand is greater than it can supply – such as in the summer months – it buys water from the county to the tune of $500,000 annually.

There is pressure for the city to get out of the water business, especially with Fulton County offering cheaper rates. The county voted last year to cut its water rates by 4 percent, adding to the pressure on Roswell.

“Why should the city build a water tank when we can buy cheaper water from Fulton County?” asked resident Valentine Vulov. “It doesn’t make financial sense.”

The water business is heavily regulated by the state. Few governments are allowed to get into the business. Forsyth County, which encompasses Lake Lanier, has to buy its water from the city of Cumming because the state will not allow the county to operate its own system.

“There is no way to get into the water business,” said Roswell Mayor Jere Wood. “I believe we need to be independent of Fulton County. In the past, I’ve seen Fulton County abuse its authority.”

The next public hearing on the water plant and its tank will be Feb. 12. Council is expected to hear the issue Feb. 25.