Press Release Regarding Park Street Utility Replacement Project

For Immediate Release: April 4, 2024

City of Dahlonega Park Street Utility Replacement Project

For over a decade, a project to replace the 100-year-old infrastructure on Park Street has been discussed by city officials. Due to a lack of funds, and other pressing system maintenance needs, the project was always delayed. Upon notification of the receipt of American Rescue Funds, which came with an approved expenditure category of infrastructure projects, city staff approached the council asking them to consider approving the use of these funds for the replacement of water, sanitary sewer, and stormwater infrastructure on Park Street in lieu of rate increases or issuing new debt to fund the project.  The council approved this during the FY22 budget process. While the original goal was to work on both South and North Park Street, the project bids exceeded the budget which resulted in a reduced scope limited to South Park Street.

The City began advertising this project in the summer of 2022 via internet, social media and face-to-face interactions with homeowners, tenants and business owners along the construction route. City staff walked Park Street to speak personally with all residences and businesses on the street.  If no one was home, phone calls were made, and letters were also mailed.  In all, city staff made fifty-two individual contacts with residents, businesses, and property owners in an effort to learn of concerns and address them. There was also an Open House on November 9, 2022. The public was invited, and details were provided to all who attended. City Leadership, staff and our engineering design team were there and entertained questions on a one-on-one basis late into the evening. Following the selection of a construction contractor, another informational meeting was held on December 19, 2023. Again, city leadership, staff, engineers, and representatives from the construction company attended to answer questions from the citizens and business owners who attended.  Among the many details discussed were access to driveways, curbs, access by public safety and city services, mail and package delivery, underground utilities, and the trees which line the street.

This project includes replacement and enlarging of water and sewer mains, including installation of new water and sewer services to all customers. The existing water and sewer infrastructure in this area has long outlived its useful life and these upgrades are necessary simply due to age, the need to upgrade our system to provide increased water pressure and flow throughout the city and improve fire protection throughout the system. In addition to the water and sewer work, new storm drains will be installed along the entire length of South Park Street. The collection of stormwater management components currently in that area consists of a combination of structures and pipes installed at different times and of varying effectiveness. In many areas, there is no stormwater relief whatsoever and street flooding, particularly near the Martin Street intersection, is not uncommon. A new system will be installed consisting of regularly placed storm inlets and reinforced concrete pipe. This work will impact the street so heavily that the entire road surface will be replaced. In most areas, new curb and gutter will be installed and, in some areas, new sidewalk.

This is a very large project that covers quite a wide footprint.  What many citizens do not understand is that when utilities are installed there is a required minimum width of separation between each type of utility and there is no easy way to route pipes around obstacles without causing future performance and maintenance issues for both residents and city crews. There is also the requirement to continue to provide services to the residents and businesses on Park Street so the existing infrastructure cannot be removed to allow room for the new in its current location. The new stormwater infrastructure will be installed in the area between the existing sidewalk and curb and gutter requiring excavation. This is the area that currently holds most of the dogwoods. The city’s leadership and staff have a fiduciary responsibility to oversee the management of the city’s funds. Our funding resources do not always lend themselves to the use of funds to dig up existing trees and replant them; it simply is not cost effective. It is cost effective, in this instance, to secure trees which will mature in approximately ten years for incorporation into the streetscape. The types of trees and vegetation chosen as replacement specimens will be carefully chosen to minimize future impacts on infrastructure.

It’s very unfortunate, and no one at the city wants to see them go, but the city leadership is tasked with balancing our wants…for the beauty of the trees we’ve become accustomed to…with our needs…for reliable water and sewer service throughout the city, and federal mandates to mitigate the flow of stormwater.  The city is committed to the installation of trees to once again grace Park Street for years to come.