By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great local journalism.
City rejects county's latest water offer
Mayor: Commissioners 'playing games'
Placeholder Image
Forsyth County News

Also at Tuesday's meeting, Cumming City Council:

• Following a public hearing in which no one spoke, voted 5-0 to approve a variance request from Larose Manton for a 0.36-acre tract of land on Lanier 400 Pkwy., which is home to a cell phone tower. The variance makes the site a legal, non-confirming property.

• Postponed an annexation request by Medicus Property LLC for a 1.14-acre tract of land on Samples Road, citing Forsyth County had not yet responded to a request for approval.

• Voted 5-0 to approve a change in the alcohol license for O’Charley’s Restaurant due to a change in ownership of the restaurant.

• Voted 5-0 to approve an ordinance establishing a 6 p.m. executive session prior to every regular city council meeting, and bringing other outdated ordinances up to date.

• Approved a bid of $9,500 from Wallace Painting in Forsyth County for exterior cleaning of City Hall.

• Heard public comments from Brant Meadows, who questioned the legitimacy of the Cumming mayor and council as an elected board since no election was held for their offices as all ran unopposed. Meadows has spoken on the issue before.

• Heard public comments from Hal Schneider, who asked the mayor and council to look at a water contract lawsuit from Virginia, in which it was determined a city could not charge a county more than the cost to withdraw the water.

• Announced the city’s Memorial Day ceremony will be held at 11 a.m. May 25 at the Veterans War Memorial, and that the “Wizard of Oz” will run June 7-July 1 at the Cumming Playhouse.

— Crystal Ledford

The Cumming City Council has rejected the most recent water contract proposal from Forsyth County.

In a 5-0 vote Tuesday night, the council rejected a nonbinding proposal that Forsyth County commissioners spent more than two hours crafting during a May 9 meeting.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt accused the commissioners of “playing games.”

“Until the commissioners get their act together and the city can be represented ... I think rather than arguing about the price the city is charging, the city and the county both need to get together and have an understanding and have a price equal to each other throughout the whole county,” he said.

The city has a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw water from Lake Lanier, but the county does not.

The county buys most of its untreated water from Cumming, as well as some treated water.

The county’s nonbinding proposal to the city anticipated buying 1.2 billion gallons of treated water per year at a price of $2.25 per 1,000 gallons, upping the minimum required purchase from a previous county proposal.

The contract would have been five years at a fixed rate, with a five-year option to renew, at which time the cost would be adjusted for the consumer price index, or CPI.

Under the current contract, which expires May 26, Forsyth County pays about $2.43 per 1,000 gallons, which is subject to price index.

As far as untreated water, the county’s proposal anticipated a 15-year contract, with a county option to renew for another 15. A previous county offer requested 50 years at the current rate of about 10 cents per 1,000 gallons.

On May 7, the city council sent commissioners a counter offer to the commissioner’s initial binding proposal.

That proposal included untreated water for 10 years at a rate of 50 cents per 1,000 gallons up to 3.25 billion gallons per year, and 75 cents per 1,000 gallons for any purchase above that amount.

Also contained was treated water for five years on a tiered pricing structure, starting at $2.25 per 1,000 gallons for the first 3.3 million gallons per day, increasing to $2.40 per 1,000 gallons for the next 3.3 million gpd and then to $3.60 per 1,000 gallons for any purchases about that.

The city’s counteroffer also asked the county to pay $11.4 million for allocation of 65 percent of the water permitted through the intake.

In the county’s first binding offer, commissioners had asked to pay the fee in exchange for ownership of 65 percent of the intake facility.

The county’s nonbinding proposal from May 9 stated the county would receive leasehold of the intake, but not ownership, with 65 percent of the allocation based on the untreated water rate structure.

The commissioners also requested that city leaders extend the current water contract to June 20.

After a recommendation from Gravitt, councilmembers voted 5-0 to deny that request.

“The contract expires May 26, [but] your water’s not going to be turned off,” Gravitt said. “But by the way, when you go pay $2 for a bottle of water, $2.43 a thousand [gallons] is pretty cheap.”

Commission Chairman Jim Boff attended the meeting, as well as Commissioners Patrick Bell and Pete Amos.

Amos has recused himself from voting in all water contract matters since he owns a company that buys and resells water from the city and county.

Tuesday night, Boff said he was not surprised by the council’s vote.

“I was expecting the answers that we got. That’s one of the reasons I voted against sending it over here, or at least the main contract, [but] I voted to ask for the extension,” Boff said. “This is about what I thought would happen.”

Bell concurred that he wasn’t surprised by the city’s move.

“I suspected as much,” he said. “The mayor and council had requested whatever we send over be … a binding offer, and of course last Wednesday, after spending three and half hours, we had a holdout that prevented us from sending a binding offer.”

Both Boff and Bell said they were unsure of what steps the commission may take after the city’s vote.

“We’re just going to have to put our heads together and see what we can come up with,” Boff said.

Added Bell: “I’ll go back and to Commissioner [Brian] Tam … and see if we can’t bring another proposal back to the board, but I’m not sure we’re going to get there.”