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Berkeley Lake to Receive FEMA Funds for Dam Repairs

The federal agency announced it would reimburse city 75 percent of repair costs, GEMA expected to kick in additional monies.

There was dancing in the streets in Berkeley Lake late yesterday - or at least at City Hall. The long-awaited news that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) would reimburse the city to repair the dam damaged in the historic floods of 2009 finally came.

"I'm so excited and so relieved," said the city's mayor, Lois Salter. "It feels like a huge load off of my mind."

The city's residents were looking at a $3.5 million repair bill for the dam if the federal funds had not come through. But getting FEMA to declare the city's claim as legitimate was a two-year journey for Salter, the council members, its city engineers and the citizens of the town's 2,000 residents.

"It's been a long, long road to get here," said Salter. That road would take city leaders through a myriad of engineering reports and studies, government agencies and even the U.S. Congress. "It's been a huge challenge, I never dreamed it would take this long," she said.

What this means to residents is the likelihood they'll see a reduction in their property taxes next year. "This takes a huge tax burden off of our citizens," said the mayor. "I expect council will be able to lower taxes."

The city had raised taxes by over 30 percent in 2010 and taxpayers had approved a $2.8 million bond referendum earlier this year to help fund the repairs in the event FEMA would not approve the city's claim for reimbursement of the cost of dam repairs.

In addition to FEMA funds, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) will kick in at least 10 percent of the repair costs. Salter said there is a possibility the agency will be able to increase the percentage of reimbursement costs.

It was a GEMA representative who called Salter late yesterday afternoon to alert her that FEMA had finally approved the city's claim for reimbursement. "The GEMA representative said he knew 'I was about to hyperventilate out here,'" she said with a laugh.

City leaders have already lined up pre-approved contractors to bid on the job and will meet with them on Monday. Salter said after council reviews the bids and selects a contractor the work will begin.

Work is expected to begin in October or November. The 88-acre lake will need to be drained to repair the dam. The process is expected to take approximately nine months. Along with the repairs to the dam, the portion of N. Berkeley Lake Road that runs along the side of the dam will be raised and a new drainage system installed that will run underneath the road.

In the meantime, the city will have to decide what to do with all of those fish in Lake Berkeley. Maybe a giant fish fry?


Bob Martell September 09, 2011 at 08:32 PM
So the feds are gonna pay for repairs to the dam, so much so that its expected that Berkeley Lake will lower taxes next year...and apparently eliminate any need or threat of annexation of it neighbors in Peachtree Corners in the process...that shoots a giant hole in UPCCAs main argument for incorporation...
Alex J. Wright September 10, 2011 at 01:58 AM
Bob, No one ever seriously thought Berkeley Lake was going to annex Peachtree Corners. I've yet to find one media report that even mentions this possibility (unlike the myriad of articles about Norcross looking at Tech Park). The only reference I can find of even any speculation about such a move is just idle chatter and speculation on this web page. Nothing at all from any Berkeley Lake officials or their webpage. Berkeley Lake does not have a history of aggressive annexation like Norcross. In fact as far as I can tell the current Berkeley Lake boundaries are the same that they were in 1956 when the city was created. This talk of Berkeley Lake ever considering annexation of Peachtree Corners is the poster child for a straw man argument if there ever was one. And as far as this move by FEMA shooting a hole in UPCCA's argument for incorporation.......... not only is the UPCCA's argument for incorporation is multi faceted (way more to it than just Norcross annexation) but the argument for incorporating to protect itself from higher Norcross taxation remains intact as well.
Jeanne Aulbach September 12, 2011 at 08:57 PM
Bob, Berkeley Lake is working on annexing some of the commercial properties in their area. Mayor Salter is doing what is in the best interests for her city. Under the circumstances, I would do the same thing too to protect my community. Cities need both comercial and residential properties to remain healthy. So I doubt the annexation movement will be rolled back. Norcross and Duluth are still actively working on annexing commercial properties in Peachtree Corners, so no "giant hole" in ONE of the many arguments for incorporation. The FEMA funding is good news for them. I hope their recent tax increase can be scaled back. I find it difficult to understand why someone would take this good news for Berkeley Lake and attempt to use it in this fashion just to make a point.


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