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County to buy family's home in path of pipeline

LAWRENCEVILLE - In a few months, the Reiffs' front yard will become a construction zone.

First, the county will build two 36-inch sewage force main pipes. Then, within another couple of years, the crews will be back to build a 72-inch pipeline from the F. Wayne Hill Water Resources Center to Lake Lanier.

With the possibility of another construction project with the proposed Sugarloaf Parkway extension path nearby, Stan and Amy Reiff were willing to sell their 4.88 acres to the county, according to the Department of Water Resource's Joel Twilley.

"This property was very encumbered by easements, almost to the front door," Twilley explained after a Water & Sewerage Authority meeting Monday.

That board approved the purchase of the entire lot, instead of simply buying easements to put the pipes under the ground. The Board of Commissioners will consider giving final approval to the purchase today.

Stan Reiff said he's been looking for a place to relocate for a couple of years but hasn't had much luck.

The family moved from Alaska and wanted to have an expansive, peaceful place to raise their son, who has disabilities.

"I'm not sure we had a whole lot of choice," he said. "We put a lot of energy into making this home accessible. We wanted to be a family and be left alone. ... I'm not sure anybody's excited about relocating a family."

While the land, the house and the barn will cost the county $471,350, Water Resources Director Frank Stephens said the price is worth it to have a place where contractors can set up an office and securely store equipment. It could mean that bids for the construction will be lower.

Besides, Twilley said, the county has purchased property for construction staging before and eventually sold the land for a profit - all the while ending up with the easement it needs to puts pipe under the ground.

"Our past experience is the easement can cost us nothing or a minimal amount," Twilley said.

The county used the same method to build a pipeline that connected the newer Hill plant to Gwinnett's older Lanier Filter Plant.

Stephens said the past project was at the midpoint in the pipeline, while the Reiff's land is closer to the Hill plant than the lake.

But the opportunity was still ripe, especially since the family had all the other construction problems to worry about.

"They were more than willing to get rid of it because of all the impacts," Twilley said.

Stephens said the force main pipes would be under construction next year, while the county is still waiting for a state permit to build the pipeline to the lake.