Toccoa Commissioners Revoke Letter Supporting Water Project Grant

Toccoa City Commissioners revoke a letter of support for a proposed multi-million dollar project to interconnect area water systems.

City commissioners met Wednesday to talk with Chris Quigley, the engineer hired by Madison and Elbert County officials to design the project.

Madison and Elbert County officials are seeking $10 million from the Governor’s Water Supply Program to interconnect water systems in five northeast Georgia counties, Stephens, Franklin, Madison, Elbert, and Oglethorpe.

Toccoa Mayor David Austin had signed a letter of support for the project on behalf of the city.

However, City Commissioner Terry Carter said he feels that the commission should have discussed the letter before it was signed.

In addition, Carter said since the grant application calls Toccoa’s water capacity a key part of the project, the city should have been contacted and involved in discussions with other officials.

“There is a difference in asking for a letter of support for a grant and being an integral part of that grant,” said Carter. “There is a huge difference.”

In addition, the grant application said the project will help with economic growth in the region.

Carter said Toccoa’s water should benefit economic growth here, not in Madison and Oglethorpe counties.

“I do not have a problem selling to Franklin County and Habersham County,” said Carter. “Our people can drive there to work if they had to. I have a problem providing water all the way down to Madison and Oglethorpe. I do not want to ship our resources that far south when we need it to attract industry, the same type of industry Madison and Oglethorpe (counties) are trying to attract.”

Toccoa City Manager Mike Jackson said Quigley told him the city has no obligations to sell anybody anything as part of this project.

Quigley repeated that again during the meeting.

Meanwhile, Quigley said he thought Toccoa would, like other communities, see it as an opportunity to sell water to neighboring communities and make money.

He said he did not envision that Toccoa would be concerned that this project was trying to take Toccoa’s resources.

“It is not the intent,” said Quigley. “It is the farthest from the intent. We went out trying to create win-wins for folks. We thought this project is a big win-win.”

Currently, Toccoa has access to 9 million gallons of water a day and is using about 3 million gallons.

Mayor Austin said he does have concerns that if Toccoa does not explore other options for selling water, the state will begin to question Toccoa’s need for that much capacity.

“My fear is if when we go before EPD and try to get an extension on our permit, they look at us and we are only using 1/3 of our water, they will take away our rights (to that water),” said Austin.

Following discussions, commissioners held a called meeting where they voted unanimously to revoke the letter of support.