By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great local journalism.
Mayor: Water talks fiasco
Placeholder Image
Forsyth County News
H. Ford Gravitt made no attempt Tuesday night to hide his frustration with the Forsyth County commission.

Before denying the county’s water contract extension request, Cumming’s mayor blasted his counterparts for their inability to compromise.

“It would be very simple if we had simple-minded people to work with, but it’s turned into a fiasco,” Gravitt said. “Four years ago, we started working on this, and we’re still further away now than we probably [were] back then.”

The commission voted 5-0 last week to ask for more time, saying the proposed 20-year contract between the two governments is potentially a longer commitment than the county wants.

While the current contract doesn’t expire until 2012, Gravitt said there are a few things the city needs to do to bring the county up to par for the future.

“It doesn’t mater with the city of Cumming whether we have a contract or not,” Gravitt said after the meeting. “We have a lot of water we can sell and we can certainly look for other customers.

“Our first objective is to furnish Forsyth County, but we’ve got to have something to work with.”

Because the county does not have a permit to pull water from Lake Lanier, the city has an edge in negotiations. The county gets most, if not all of its water from Cumming, with limited options for immediate change.

The contract is the second proposal from the city, Gravitt said. The city conceded by offering to charge a fixed rate for the first five years of the extension at the current water price. But for the 15 years thereafter, prices could rise based on the changing consumer price index.

Gravitt also noted the city’s offer called for the county to pay about 65 percent of the $15 million it invested in infrastructure able to accommodate the water needs of city and county citizens for another 25 years.

“The county has chosen not to do this and not to renew the contract, and they have written a letter back to the city of Cumming requesting an extension,” said Gravitt, who then read the letter from Commission Chairman Charles Laughinghouse.

When he reached the part when the commissioner said the county will not be able to meet the city’s Dec. 18 deadline, Gravitt chuckled at his apparent lack of surprise.

“Like I’ve said, we’ve been working on this over four years and they haven’t been able to do anything,” he said. “I recommend ... that we don’t extend the offer that’s been made and that ... this offer will not be made again to the county.”

Gravitt also noted the county’s need for a super majority, or a 4-1 vote to sign the contract with the city, noting a simple majority works with other governments.

“I am also recommending ... that we cease discussion with the county commissioners until they get a simple majority rules over there.”