FORSYTH COUNTY - A portion of Sanders Road near Lake Lanier has been closed for more than two years, but it appears the longstanding issue between the City of Cumming and Forsyth County governments is closer to being resolved.
At a work session on Tuesday, the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners approved an intergovernmental agreement with the City of Cumming to pay up to $217,000, half of the expected cost, upon completion of the road.
“We would pay one half of up to of $434,000 to basically reopen Sanders Road,” said County Attorney Ken Jarrard prior to the vote. “We’ve gone all through this before, at this point we’re at a position of, do we want to ratify this.”
If the final cost is lower than $434,000, then the county will only pay 50 percent of that cost. Per the agreement, the county will not be a co-applicant for any permits or grant funding should the city pursue them.
The portion 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.
The agreement was passed by 3-1-1 vote, with Commissioner Jim Boff against and Commissioner Pete Amos recused as his wife is part of the Mashburn Family Trust, which owned a portion of the dam that failed and is currently involved in litigation with the city.
Boff attempted to make an amendment to the motion during the meeting that would have required the city to first repay the county should the city recover money “through settlement or court order.” That motion died for lack of a second.
Rebuilding the road has been an issue 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.
Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills said that the matter has taken too long to resolve.
“I think it’s sort of an oxymoron to say, ‘right on the cusp,’ and Sanders Road in the same sentence given how long we’ve been dealing with this,” she said.
Jarrard said prior to the vote that the matter is now up to the city council, which can adopt it or send it back to the county. The council’s next meeting is on Nov. 17
“I’d like to at least be able to tell the city attorney that he can take it to the council and that the board has voted on it,” Jarrard said. “He’s going to be taking it to the council pretty soon.”
This is the second cleanup effort that has developed in that area this year, after the city brought in a firm to stabilize the stream and bed of the former Lake Alice this summer.
In a related matter, the city recently 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.