Forsyth County commissioners have authorized two of their own to enter open negotiations with the city of Cumming on a water contract.
Patrick Bell and Jim Boff, who chairs the commission, were selected to represent the county in a 5-0 vote during a work session Tuesday.
County Attorney Ken Jarrard said the meetings will be open to the public, due to the way the commission has structured its plans for negotiations.
“To the extent the board has taken official action to sort of commission them to go across the street [to Cumming City Hall], that is going to be subject to the open meetings act,” Jarrard said after the work session.
The vote followed a discussion of how to work out the contract and which people would do so, though few details of a possible agreement were floated.
Forsyth’s water agreements with the city will expire in May, and the governments are expected to renegotiate or renew before then.
The county buys most of its water from Cumming, which has a permit to withdraw from Lake Lanier. Forsyth does not.
That status is unlikely to change in the short term, so the county will negotiate to extend the untreated water contract, possibly for 50 years, said Tim Perkins, director of water and sewer.
The county also buys treated water from the city, but is moving toward treating more drinking water on its own to lower costs, Perkins said.
“There’s an opportunity maybe to work something out with the city along those lines, but we do need them,” he said. “We don’t have any other options in the short term.”
Commissioner Brian Tam has met with the mayor several times to discuss the water contract, but said he never received authority from the commission to negotiate.
Bell and Boff plan to meet with the city in the weeks ahead.
“It can be subject to open records,” Bell said of the meeting. “It doesn’t matter. It is the people’s water system.”
Boff said discussions on credits for shared infrastructure will need to be negotiated, with Bell adding that the cost of treated water will also be a topic.
Price has been one sticking point in previous discussions about the county’s contracts to buy both untreated and treated water from the city.
Currently, the untreated water contract formula amounts to the county paying about 9 or 10 cents per 1, 000 gallons to the city, Jarrard said in a previous presentation.
Forsyth receives up to 16 million gallons per day under the agreement.
For treated water, the county pays $2.43 per 1, 000 gallons, a cost that can fluctuate with the consumer price index, Jarrard said.
The county buys about 4.5 million gallons per day of treated water on average, he said.