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Extension sought for water contracts
Move would allow more time for talks
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Forsyth County News

Other action

Also at a work session Tuesday, commissioners:

• Accepted the terms of a wastewater right-of-way permit from the National Park Service, which grants Forsyth the ability to run a sewer pipe on property it owns in the Chattahoochee River recreation area.

• Authorized an additional $50,000 in attorney’s fees to King & Spalding to continue its defense of a county wastewater permit issued by the Environmental Protection Division. The matter is being challenged by Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper. The case, which is headed to the Georgia Appeals Court, has cost the county $527,800 so far.

• Awarded a bid for intersection improvements at Hopewell Road and Hwy. 9 to Martin Contracting for about $278,000. The project is funded by 1-cent sales tax revenue.

• Set public hearings on a proposed change to the unified development code for design criteria that would determine when an accessory building is considered attached to the primary building.

The size of an accessory structure is limited if detached. That allows a potential loophole for residents to build to any size, if connected by a hallway. The change would regulate the hallway length allowed.

Commissioner Patrick Bell was the lone opposition, stating the staff time spent on the rare issue was unnecessary.

• Discussed the legality of adopting an ordinance banning synthetic marijuana or setting requirements for its sale. The county attorney plans to return with information on what’s allowable.

 

Note: All votes were 5-0 unless otherwise noted.

Due to a split vote of the Forsyth County commission, the public will have a chance to speak on the possibility of extending water contracts with the city of Cumming through this fall.

Commissioners voted 3-2, with Jim Boff and Todd Levent opposed, to extend the agreements to purchase water from the city to Oct. 31.

The county buys most of its water from Cumming, which has a permit to withdraw from Lake Lanier. The county does not.

The contracts for treated and untreated water will expire in late May, but Commissioner Pete Amos made the suggestion for the county to seek an extension.

Amos said city officials would like to negotiate the terms for water purchases in conjunction with discussions on the service delivery strategy, which determines how the governments divide up services, and the split for the 1-cent local option sales tax, or LOST.

Those issues have Oct. 31 and Dec. 31 deadlines, respectively, to reach agreement.

"If you think about it, water is part of the service delivery contracts with the county," Amos said. "Without discussing both of them at one time, we could change our service delivery and have to come back with our water contract."

Commission rules state that a super majority, or a minimum of four of the five votes, is required to approve an intergovernmental agreement.

If four votes aren’t in favor, the matter can go to a public hearing, after which a simple majority, or three votes, can give approval.

Commissioners also voted 4-1, with Boff opposed, to hold a public hearing April 5.

Levent said the commission should send a proposal to the city to get some feedback before postponing the deadline.

"Let’s at least put something on the table to start talking about," Levent said.

He added that with the county’s new treatment plant to begin operations in July, Forsyth will be able to treat more water on its own.

By his proposal, he estimated the county could save up to $1 million in the three months prior to the October deadline being considered.

Levent presented a summary of his proposal, in which the county would pay less for treated water and lower its required minimum gallon purchase from the current contract.

Forsyth would also pay off its portion of the city’s water infrastructure, assuming it also received ownership of that percentage, Levent said.

Amos volunteered to bring proposals to city officials for review and discussion.

The board also voted 4-1, with Boff opposed, to dissolve the water contract negotiating committee, and instead opted to have each commissioner discuss the agreements with the city.

Boff and Bell had previously been appointed to the committee, from which Bell resigned Feb. 17.

In an e-mail to commissioners and county staff, Bell wrote: "Chairman Boff and I could not meet together to discuss anything about the water contract without calling a meeting. That meant that we could not meet together to review historical issues, could not look at current usages and trends, could not look at previous offers together and could not develop a strategy of negotiation."