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Meeting may end impasse
Deals could be close on water, tax
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Forsyth County News

Two simmering issues between Cumming and Forsyth County will be the topics of a joint meeting this morning.

The governments have listed possible ratification of agreements on water and the distribution of the local option sales tax, or LOST, on the agenda for the 10:30 a.m. meeting at the county administration building.

Unable to reach agreements independently, the city and county entered mediation on the subjects Oct. 15 and 16, and also met on Wednesday.

The talks were mediated by former Georgia Chief Justice Norman Fletcher, whose fee will be shared in an amount determined the parties.

Attorneys had deemed the sessions exempt from the open meetings act, so both were held behind closed doors.

Officials have cited a gag order, issued by Fletcher, forbidding discussion of what occurred in the mediation sessions.

However, no agreements are binding until approved in open meetings by both parties, which appears to be the possible outcome of today’s meeting.

The issue of agreeing on a new water contract has been a focus for much of this year.

Forsyth has a permit allocation from the Georgia Environmental Protection, but no way to draw water from Lake Lanier.

As a result, it purchases most of its untreated as well as some treated water from Cumming.

The two reached an informal agreement on terms of a new contract in May, just days before the expiration of the previous 25-year agreement, but could not formalize the deal.

In late August, the city stated it would end the sales of untreated water to the county on Oct. 1 if an agreement wasn’t signed.

The county and city agreed to enter mediation in late September, which led Cumming to delay the moratorium on selling untreated water to Oct. 31.

Forsyth still would be able to buy treated water for its customers at a higher rate in that case.

Discussions on LOST began in late June, following a schedule set by the state.

The county and its cities, in this case only Cumming, must agree on a percentage split of the revenues from the 1-cent sales tax, which is often based on services provided by each government.

Cumming currently receives 15 percent of collections, and Forsyth gets 85 percent from LOST, which is intended to roll back property taxes.

That 10-year agreement will end Dec. 31, and the tax will continue only if the county and city reach a new agreement.

Unable to determine the split within the first two months, the governments entered mediation as required.

They must agree on a split by Saturday to avoid the next step, in which either side can ask the Superior Court to select one of two proposals.