The Athens-Clarke County Mayor and Commission unanimously approved a $23.25 million purchase of a 190-acre quarry to use as a new water reservoir, and moved to extend the county’s current ban on e-scooters in a voting meeting Tuesday night.
County Manager Blaine Williams said using the quarry to build a new reservoir could provide the county with resiliency against droughts. District 8 Commissioner Andy Herod said that unlike Bear Creek Reservoir, ACC would not have to share the water in the new reservoir with other counties. ACC shares the water from Bear Creek Reservoir with Jackson, Barrow and Oconee counties.
“This is one of those things that we’re putting in place for those dire situations that we need to be prepared for,” District 5 Commissioner Tim Denson said. “This is going to save future lives, future economies. It’s just pretty amazing.”
The quarry will be expanded for some time before being used as a reservoir. The reservoir is planned to be completed by fiscal year 2034, according to an ACC press release, and by that time will be able to contain between 4 to 5 billion gallons of water, roughly the same as what Bear Creek holds, Williams said.
The ACC government has wanted for quite some time to be more heavily invested in water reuse, and has been working toward making the purchase for years, Mayor Kelly Girtz said during the meeting. The quarry is located on Winterville Road, adjacent to Athens-Ben Epps Airport.
The mayor and commission also unanimously approved a recommendation from the Legislative Review Committee to prohibit shareable e-scooters in the county. The county has had a moratorium on the scooters in place since December 2018, but the moratorium is currently set to expire on Dec. 4.
Accepting the LRC’s recommendation does not extend the moratorium or ban e-scooters entirely. The mayor and commission will have to develop an ordinance to do so later.
District 2 Commissioner Mariah Parker, a member of the LRC, said the committee has tried to develop plans to bring the scooters back, but couldn’t figure out a way to make them beneficial to the community.
Instead of extending the moratorium, commissioners discussed the possibility of banning e-scooters permanently.
“In my opinion, these things are dangerous on the sidewalk, they’re dangerous in the road, there’s no place that they’re not dangerous,” Herod said. “I think we should just ban the damn things and be done with it.”
The commission also unanimously voted to hold an LRC recommendation to allow the county’s Inclusion Officer, Krystle Cobran, to hire a full-time communication strategist for the Inclusion Office. As of right now, Cobran is the only member of the office.
District 9 Commissioner Ovita Thornton raised concerns that hiring a communication strategist was not enough, as the mayor and commission had assigned the LRC to “examine opportunities for local civil rights legislation.”
“We have other departments that have been waiting for assistance or hires,” Thornton said. “With all the conflict that we have had since the COVID… we have not had any direction or any guidance from our inclusion and diversity department. ... I haven’t seen anything that comes close to addressing the diversity and inclusion problems that we have seen in this community.”
Commissioners also unanimously passed legislation allowing for package stores to deliver alcohol to customers’ homes in sealed containers, as state legislators passed a law allowing it.
The mayor and commission will hold its next work session on Oct. 13.