Henry County seeks tax districts to fund repairs to troubled dams

District 5 Henry County Commissioner Bruce Holmes
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District 5 Henry County Commissioner Bruce Holmes

Credit: Special to AJC

Credit: Special to AJC

The Henry County Board of Commissioners is considering a new program which would establish special tax districts to help fund repairs on about a dozen of the county’s critical dams.

Under the program, private land owners or communities could petition the county to establish a self-taxing district among its members to repay the county for work on a dams.

John Rutan, stormwater director for Henry County, presented the plan to the commission at the June 20 meeting, and estimated the cost for repairs on all 11 dams at between $11 million and $22 million.

“We’re not in the position where we have the option of doing nothing,” Rutan said. “These are Category 1 dams that have been deemed unsafe. We must do something.”

District 5 Commissioner Bruce Holmes initially raised concerns about the cost of the program, questioning the possible ramifications should another severe economic downturn occur. He also questioned whether affluent neighborhoods had an advantage as they could better absorb the cost of repairs.

Holmes’ position, however, seemed to change after the other commissioners and members of the public emphasized the dams’ importance.

Holmes then suggested not stopping the program at Category 1 dams, those whose failure could result in loss of life, and extend the program to Category 2 dams as well.

“We just heard a presentation on how dangerous this can be,” he said. “If we’re going to fix one dam, we need to fix all the dams.”

He also suggested the program, which was originally pitched as voluntary, should be mandatory.

“Whatever it takes,” he said.

Rutan said the program would suffice with just Category 1 dams to begin with, but could expand in the future.

A vote on the plan is tentatively set for the next commissioner meeting on July 18.

In other Clayton/Henry news:

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A new school and more money for teachers were approved with the budget