Berkeley Lake mayor gives state of city

BERKELEY LAKE -- Mayor Lois Salter summed up for residents her view of the past year's challenges and accomplishments Thursday in her annual state of the city address.

The last few months, according to Salter, "have felt like a battle." The mayor cited the ongoing service dispute with Gwinnett County as one battle, stating that in spite of the legal fees and time spent on the negotiations, the principle is "a worthy cause."

Salter said that another challenge has been changes in state funding and policies regarding Georgia's cities. In fact, the city now has about $663,000 in its General Fund and about $616,000 in budgeted expenses - and now Lake Berkeley Dam is in need of about $4 million in repairs.

"It may be a defining year for Berkeley Lake," Salter said. "This is a time of challenge in which citizens need to pull together."

Federal assistance for dam repairs in question

Extensive repairs on Lake Berkeley dam are necessary, a fact that became evident after the historic floods the county experienced last fall. FEMA had indicated this year that that organization will pay for up to 75 percent of repairs that are a direct result of a natural disaster.

In a recent response to the city's request for federal assistance for the dam repairs, FEMA responded that it is willing to support a scope of work on the dam that amounts to about 11 percent of what Berkeley Lake's engineers say must be done, and FEMA will fund only 75 percent of that 11 percent.

Rich Edinger and the team of engineers involved with the dam repairs have involved FEMA and GEMA from the beginning of the project. The team had been hopeful, once necessary studies were performed, that the federal agency would fund about 75 percent of the $4 million cost.

In fact in a meeting this week, FEMA and Safe Dams agreed that the entire project outlined by project engineers must be completed for the stability and safety of the dam.

Based on that consensus, Berkeley Lake will appeal FEMA's decision.

Salter has been enlisting the help of federal legislators, and they have been "receptive and communicative," according to the mayor. Salter also stated that "(the city) will appeal as far as it takes to appeal" FEMA's decision.

None of the money required for dam repairs is in the city's budget this year, so the city will have to borrow money to cover its portion of the price tag.