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County to discuss reservoir Monday
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The long-planned Bear Creek Reservoir is once again taking center stage these days as the project moves closer to reality.

The Newton County Board of Commissioners is hosting a work session at 6 p.m. Monday at the Historic Courthouse to discuss recent developments for the project, including whether to accept a very low-interest, $21 million loan from the state.

County Attorney Tommy Craig has said the project is incredibly close to getting the environmental permits necessary to begin construction on the 1,242-acre Bear Creek Reservoir, which had its initial application in 1999.

"The project, from start to finish through all its phases, would be $62 million, but we don't anticipate the cost to be more than the $21 million to build the dam and reservoir, and we wouldn't spend any more money until there was demand and we had exhausted all the available supplies at Cornish Creek (Lake Varner)," Craig said previously. "The project would be built in response to demand and the water rates the county charges would be sufficient to pay the debt."

Craig said the water pump and water treatment plan wouldn't be needed until later, as natural water flow into the reservoir could even supply some water without pumping.

However, historically, a large number of reservoir projects have gone over budget, in some cases, way over budget. The pumping stations and piping infrastructure are often were the cost overruns are seen.

Another concern is whether this project will be needed for decades, as the population projections used when the project was devised during the housing boom are completely different from the growth patterns seen in the post-housing collapse market.

However, construction costs are low right now as the economy remains depressed.

The pros and cons will have to be weighed by the board as they decide whether to move forward with any steps at this time.

In addition, the board will discuss the Salem Road corridor zoning overlay, which seeks to develop a portion of the corridor into a mixed-use residential, commercial corridor that will operate like an informal city.