With an eye to the future, Monroe County officials hope the county one day has its own water treatment plant.
This year, the county bought Plant Camilla, an old water treatment plant in Juliette that used to be part of the old Dan River Mill.
The purchase cost the county about $700,000, said Commissioner Mike Bilderback. The county used money from the current special purpose local option sales tax.
“We want to renovate it in the future and use it as our primary water source,” he said.
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Bilderback said Monroe County is doing minor work on the plant, such as replacing the voltage system and some of the water pumps, but a major overhaul of the plant likely won’t be made for another four years when the county can call for another SPLOST vote.
However, some officials think the county may not have to wait that long.
Monroe County Commission Chairman James Vaughn said engineers are doing research to see how productive the plant can be and how soon it can get online. He said the county is using money left over from the current SPLOST to repair the plant.
“This can be a supplemental source of water for the county,” Vaughn said. “It’s being studied by the engineers to see if it will be cheaper to produce water than to purchase it. ... In some areas of the county, it will clearly be cheaper to produce it, but other parts of the county are too far away” from the plant.
But even if the county’s ability to produce its own water may be years away, Bilderback said buying the plant is a sound investment.
“It’s worth far more than ($700,000),” he said. “The fact that it’s already built and has been previously permitted is worth its weight in gold.”
When operational, the Juliette plant has a capacity of 6 million gallons a day, Bilderback said.
The county purchases water primarily from the city of Forsyth, the Macon Water Authority and Butts County. There also are private wells located throughout the county.
In 2008, Monroe County spent about $788,000 to purchase 191 million gallons of water.
Most of that water came from Macon, which sold the county 150 million gallons — 78 percent of the total purchased — for about $646,000.
Marie Allen, the water system manager for Monroe County, said the plant would be a sound investment for the county’s future.
“It would have a tremendous impact in the future,” she said. “It’s forward-thinking for Monroe County’s future and the water system’s future.”
Bilderback said the county is talking to the city of Forsyth to be a partner in the venture.
The rising costs of water spurred his interest in acquiring the plant, he said.
“We can’t control the costs, and we’re paying a rather high amount for water,” he said.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.