Members of Lake Athens Property Owners Association have been watching the dispute between the City of Athens and the Athens Municipal Water Authority uncertain of how this will affect their future.
Although most live outside of the city limits, and won’t be able to vote on whether AMWA is dissolved, they have a keen interest in who’ll be in charge of Lake Athens’ water in the years to come.
“We’re concerned about the superintendency of it,” LAPOA Board President Todd Garrett said. “We hope both sides will come together and settle the issue, without the lawsuit or anything else. The Lake Athens Property Owners think the lake is an asset to the whole community, and are interested in preserving it and enhancing it.”
Garrett, a pilot for United Air Lines, said there are about 440 properties on the lake of which about 100 are members of the LAPOA. The normal Lake Athens shoreline is at 440 feet above mean sea level. AMWA owns the property from the lake to 448 feet mean sea level. The Property Owners pay AMWA an ingress, egress fee in order to access the lake. Those with docks also pay a fee, as do those who pump water from the lake for irrigation.
If the Water Authority continues to exist, it’s relationship with the property owners would presumably go on much as it has for the past 50 years. Garrett said the LAPOA has been generally pleased with those operations. Athens City Administrator Pam Burton assures that the property owners will not be affected if the AMWA operations convert to city control.
“The Lake Athens Property Owners will still have the opportunity to purchase raw water to water their lawns,” Burton said. “The rules and regulations for the lake — there’s no plan to change those.”
Garrett said the intent of the LAPOA is not to come down on either side in the disagreement, but to be sure the lake remains a pleasant place to live, and rates remain reasonable.
“We tried to get to the bottom of it by interviewing all of the parties we could, and conducting a debate,” Garrett said. “After gathering all of the facts we possibly could, we drafted a resolution stating our position. We all love the lake, and want what’s best for it.”
The resolution was published after the debate, in which AMWA Executive Director Wylie Pirkle and City Councilman Aubrey Jones represented the two sides before a large crowd at the First Baptist Church of Athens Recreation Outreach Center.
The resolution contends that the conflict is disruptive to the unity of the community, and the conflict is potentially costly to the taxpayers. It also states that the sides serve the same taxpayers, and have the responsibility to resolve the dispute in the best interests of the people served.
The resolution calls on the city to rescind the decision reached in a December council meeting to abolish AMWA. LAPOA also exhorts both the city and the Water Authority to forgive past grievances, and establish a new contract. It calls for the new contract to allocate the responsibilities, expenses, capital needs, taxes, fees and water rates between AMWA and the city.
In addition, the LAPOA resolution asks the city and AMWA not to sell water from the lake or the future development of the Well Farm to any municipalities or users that do not directly increase economic benefit to the Athens community.
“We put out a resolution that we thought was the right thing to do, and it’s just our opinion,” Garrett said. “Whether anybody else thinks it’s the right thing, or wants to take action on it, there’s nothing we can do about it.”