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Attorneys drafting Cumming-Forsyth agreement for Sanders Road repairs
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CUMMING — In the latest signal that the longstanding impasse over the future of Sanders Road may soon be resolved, Cumming’s mayor has been authorized to sign a repair agreement with Forsyth County.

The City Council approved the measure in a 5-0 vote Tuesday night, which appears to leave just one obstacle — the agreement itself.

As it stands, the plan calls for the portion of Sanders Road that is closed between Buford Dam and Mary Alice Park roads to be repaired. The governments will share the estimated $434,000 cost, with the county not providing its half until the project is finished.

County Attorney Ken Jarrard said there is no official timetable on the agreement, which he and City Attorney Dana Miles will draft, though it likely will be finished soon.

Once the wording is finalized, the agreement will require the approval of the mayor and county commission.

That stretch of Sanders, a popular cut-through that passes through a heavily wooded residential area and along Lake Lanier, has been closed since spring 2013.

The closure came after an earthen dam holding back the former Lake Alice breeched during heavy rain and washed out part of the road. Forsyth will pay the city $217,000 toward placing two box culverts that will allow water to pass underneath the road and then reopen it.

“We got a letter yesterday from Ken Jarrard, the county attorney, setting forth those terms,” Miles told the council Tuesday.

In last week’s county vote, Commissioner Jim Boff voted against the plan. Chairman Pete Amos recused himself because his wife is part of the Mashburn Family Trusts, which owned a portion of the dam and has been involved in litigation with the city over the matter.

If the county did not want to share the costs, the city had a second plan. That proposal called for leaving the road closed, but adding a gabion wall, or a wall made of large rocks held in place by wire that allows water — but not large debris — to flow through.

“Before we went that route, we wanted the county to be involved, since it is a county road, before we closed the road,” Gravitt said.  “The county has come back after a cost estimate of $434,000 to build the road back. They have come back and basically agreed to pay half of that for the city to maintain and build the road back.”

Rebuilding the road has been a sore point between the two local governments, which couldn’t agree on the costs of repairs or future liability tied to the work.

Further complicating the issue, the county owns the road except for a 50 foot portion the city annexed and which is part of the washed-out area.

Gravitt said that repairing the road should not have taken more than two years.

“This is a project that’s gone on way too long,” “At the particular time that this road was washed out by 8 inches of rain over just a few hours, they had 10 other roads in the county that washed out. All of those roads were repaired for several million dollars.

“This road here was left unrepaired and untravelable due to the fact that commissioners wanted the city to pay 100 percent of the costs.”

Gravitt added that city officials felt the county should share some of the financial burden.

“So over the last couple of years, we’ve been working to try to resolve this issue,” he said. “The city’s going to take the lead now and make sure that that road gets opened as quickly as possible and gets repaired to where visitors and citizens can travel.”

Though no official timetable was discussed during the council meeting, previous estimates have indicated the project could be completed by year’s end.

This is the second cleanup effort that has developed in that area this summer, after the city brought in a firm to stabilize the stream and bed of the former Lake Alice.

And in a related matter, the city last month hired River Sand Inc. of Cleveland to dredge the nearby cove Lanier, on the east side of Sanders, which was impacted by the silt and sediment from the dam breech. The contract totaled $247,470.

City officials said the dredging will involve long arm excavators and an amphibious excavator, which floats in water, to take the sediment out of the cove and haul it off in dump trucks.

A related, but separate legal issue in which nearby resident Gregory Lindy has sued the city, the Mashburn Family Trusts and Cumming Town Center, a nearby retail property, remains pending in Forsyth County Superior Court.