Water system upgrades are slated to take up more than 75% of the roughly $16 million Barrow County is receiving through the federal American Rescue Plan that was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Biden earlier this year.
The county board of commissioners on Tuesday, Aug. 24, approved a preliminary list of projects and amounts for the county’s allocation to be spent on. The county has already received around $8 million in funds and is scheduled to receive the second tranche in May. The funds are restricted to four categories — water, stormwater, public safety and technology/broadband — and are required to be spent by 2026.
The $12.7 million planned to be set aside for water system improvements in the county toward a Pleasant Hill Church Road/Highway 211 water main capital project, the northeastern Barrow water tank project in progress and the Barber Creek facility expansion project, along with additional Upper Oconee Water Basin Authority infrastructure at the Bear Creek facility.
The planned expenditures also include for now $820,000 in stormwater system improvements, money for HVAC system, facility and technology upgrades between the sheriff’s office and Barrow County Emergency Services, technology upgrades for the BOC, and the installation of barrier windows in the tax commissioner’s office.
County manager Kevin Little said specific projects and funding amounts between the categories are subject to change because the water system upgrades are the only ones that currently have firm estimates.
In other business Tuesday, commissioners:
•approved an agreement with KCI for on-demand planning services to assist the planning department with reviewing rezoning requests for proposed developments of 50 residential lots or more or with at least 50,000 square feet of proposed commercial/industrial space, as well as a review of land disturbance permit requests for those projects. The firm is already assisting the county’s transportation and stormwater departments with reviews and will provide the planning department with assistance as needed. The cost for the services is not to exceeed $20,600 and is accounted for in the county’s fiscal year 2022 budget. Rebecca Whiddon, the county’s Interim director of planning and community development, said the assistance will help a planning department that has continued to be heavily inundated with rezoning requests and proposed developments around the county.
•tabled a proposed developer participation agreement for lift-station upgrades in Auburn because the board had not received a copy of the agreement in its packet. The developers of planned residential projects are covering the costs of the upgrade and expansion. The board initially voted 3-2 in favor — with chairman Pat Graham and commissioner Isaiah Berry absent — but its charter requires four affirmative votes to approve items. Commissioner Joe Goodman, who serves as chairman pro tem, and commissioner Rolando Alvarez wanted to table the item until the board’s Sept. 14 meeting.
•tabled, until its Sept. 14 meeting, a proposal by Golden Productions for management of events on the days the county has for use of the Innovation Amphitheater.
•approved a $277,000 grant out of the county’s special programs fund to the Industrial Building Authority for the extension and completion of Innovation Drive at Park 53.
•voted to call for a public hearing on a code amendment that provides for height restrictions and requirements for M-2 buildings. Public hearings will be held before the county planning commission and then before the BOC.
•appointed Patsy Whitehouse and Danielle Austin to the Senior Center Council. Whitehouse is filling an unexpired term that expires at the end of 2022. Austin’s term will expire at the end of 2024.