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Decision on water withheld
Official 'optimistic' on county-city agreement
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Forsyth County News

Also during its Thursday meeting, the Forsyth County Commission:

• Made changes to the unified development code, which included streamlining the home occupation permit process, allowing timber harvesting on certain properties 10 acres or more with restrictions and modifying the requirements for developments to hook up to public water and sewer.

• Postponed a vote on changing the definition of a septic tank system in the unified development code, after hearing from residents on how the modifications could negatively impact their neighborhood.
The considered code change would allow for off-site components of a septic tank to be grandfathered in. Residents asked the county to tighten that definition.

• Extended a policy allowing for reduction of soil and sedimentation fines on foreclosed properties to include commercial, as well as the currently covered residential developments.

• Refinanced a series of 2002 bonds as approved by the water and sewer authority earlier that day. The refunding is expected to save about 12.6 percent of the costs, or about $5.6 million in gross savings, due to lower interest rates.

• Passed a resolution approving the Development Authority of Forsyth County issuing a $45 million revenue bond for Improved Living-Towne Club Windermere Assisted Living, a planned senior living community on Trammel Road. The bond will be privately financed and have no bearing on the authority or the county's finances or credit, according to the authority's counsel.

Note: All votes were 4-0, with Commissioner Patrick Bell absent.

- Alyssa LaRenzie



Forsyth County commissioners have delayed a decision on extending water contracts with the city of Cumming in the hopes of reaching an agreement before their impending expiration.

Board members voted 4-0 on Thursday to postpone a decision on the contract extensions until an April 19 meeting.

If an extension is approved and accepted, the contracts’ expiration dates would be moved from May 26 to Oct. 31.

Forsyth County does not have a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw water from Lake Lanier as does the city. The county buys most of its untreated water from Cumming, as well as some treated water.

With no other immediate options for water, Forsyth hopes to renegotiate terms with Cumming.

Commissioner Brian Tam, who made the motion to postpone the vote, said the board will discuss the issue again at its Tuesday work session.

“I’m optimistic and hopeful that we are going to be able to come to some sort of solution,” Tam said.

Commissioner Patrick Bell, who was out of town Thursday, issued a statement for Chairman Jim Boff to read at the meeting.

“I was a proponent of the extension, and believed it was in the best interest of the county to delay finalizing in October,” Bell wrote. “However, I am now of the opinion that a resolution with respect to both agreements is very close and an extension is no longer necessary.”

To that effect, he added that he’d decided not to take an early flight home “for the purpose of voting on an extension agreement that I no longer support,” but rather to continue working toward new agreements negotiated before the May deadline.

Reached by phone Friday, Bell said he and Tam will present a proposal on Tuesday which he believes could save residents millions of dollars.

Bell said he doesn’t think it will be necessary to extend the current contract.

During a Feb. 28 work session, the commission voted 3-2, with Boff and Levent opposed, to pursue extending the contract through Oct. 31.

Those voting in favor said the later date would allow the county to work out the deal in conjunction with discussions on a 1-cent local option sales tax, or LOST. That vote wasn’t final, though.

An intergovernmental agreement requires four-fifths of the commission, or three of five votes after a public hearing, which took place Thursday night.

Several residents spoke on how the county should go about its negotiations.

Julian Bowen said he hopes the board will return to the public with something more concrete.

“Of course you need to extend the water contract, it’s how you extend it that’s the question,” said Bowen, a former commissioner. “We don’t have anything to comment on right now because we don’t have a proposal in front of us.”

He requested that the commission hold another public hearing once a proposal has been drafted.

Among the terms up for discussion are the quantities of water to be purchased and the prices to be paid, as well as costs the county owes for city infrastructure.

In January, the city billed the county about $11.4 million, which the city said represented the county’s portion of costs associated with an expanded intake and water line.

Tim Perkins, the county’s director of water and sewer, said he’s not aware of any written agreement specifically obligating the county for the infrastructure improvements for which it was billed by the city.

The “unfinished water” agreement, signed in 1998, states that repair and replacement of facility components will be shared.

The contract continues: “This does not include replacement of components associated with expansion or upgrade unless prior written agreement is obtained from the county.”