Two days before their water agreement expired, Cumming and Forsyth County came to terms on a new deal, which one official said essentially represents a renewal at a lower rate for the county.
County commissioners played the waiting game for about three hours during a special called meeting Thursday morning until a letter from Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt arrived.
Gravitt, who had been authorized to negotiate on behalf of the city council, accepted commissioners’ proposal approved Tuesday afternoon.
Both the county commission and city council will need to ratify an intergovernmental agreement before the deal is official.
“I am pleased to inform you that the city of Cumming can agree to those terms subject to … ratification by both governing authorities,” Gravitt wrote.
Forsyth doesn’t have a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw water from Lake Lanier, but the city does.
The county buys most of its untreated water from Cumming, as well as some treated water, under a 25-year agreement. That deal expires Saturday.
Forsyth County commissioners expressed relief that an agreement had been struck.
“The board did its due diligence and exhausted all of its options,” said Commissioner Brian Tam. “And in the end, we’ve come back to essentially renew the existing contracts with a price reduction.”
The new deal will set the county’s price for treated water at $2.25 per 1,000 gallons, adjusted to the consumer price index.
The county currently pays about $2.43 per 1,000 gallons, also subject to the index.
Forsyth will have a minimum purchase of 1.6 billion gallons per year, and the contract would last for five years, with a five-year option to renew.
For untreated water, the county will pay the current rate of a little more than 10 cents per 1,000 gallons, also subject to a price index, for 15 years with a 15-year option to renew.
In addition, the city will also make available an average of 4.5 million gallons per day of untreated water from its withdrawal permit from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.
The county also agreed to pay up front nearly $11.4 million the city sought for 65 percent of the cost to build a larger water intake in 2009.
The payment would likely come from the water and sewer fund’s money set aside for capital improvements.
In return, the county receives at least 65 percent of any future withdrawals permitted by the EPD and use of the structure for its lifespan.
The agreement also requires the city to work with the county on seeking permit increases.
Tam said he felt the deal benefits all residents, whether they receive city or county water.
“I want to thank Mayor Gravitt for always being willing to talk and never letting the negotiations get shut down,” he said.
Chairman Jim Boff said customers of the county’s water likely will see “business as usual,” despite the down-to-the-wire discussions between the governments.
“Some people will say we spent too much, some people will not know we did anything, and some people might feel we should have spent more,” he said. “But what’s done is done.”