A proposal to the city of Cumming for Sanders Road repairs failed without a unanimous vote on the Forsyth County commission.
As in August, the commissioners Tuesday voted 3-1, with Jim Boff opposed and Pete Amos recused, for a similar agreement with Cumming to split the cost of repairs to fix the road, which has been closed for about four months.
However, commission by-laws require at least four votes to send a binding agreement to the city.
Amos recused himself from the issue due to his wife's partial ownership in Lake Alice Dam, whose collapse in the May 19 heavy rain led to the damage of Sanders Road.
The sediment and debris from the dam traveled from Lake Alice, partially owned by the city, over Sanders Road into a nearby cove of Lake Lanier.
Sanders Road is a county road except for a 50-foot section in the city.
Boff referenced an agreement between the city and the Mashburn trust to share responsibility for the cleanup of the sediment as part of his opposition to Forsyth County‘s involvement in repairing Sanders.
“Why we would spend any more money when the consent order lists the city as a party to the damage, I don’t understand,” he said.
County Attorney Ken Jarrard presented two drafts of proposed agreements that the commission could approve Tuesday, including one from the city and one based on an earlier nonbinding vote of the commission.
Commissioners voted 3-1 in August to split costs up to $100,000 with the city to have Cumming repair the road, with stipulations that county policies must be followed.
The city offered in September to give $100,000 for the county to repair the road.
Hearing a new bit of information on Tuesday, commissioners opted not to have the county complete the repairs and to add to the proposal.
The three members in favor wanted Cumming to handle the project and added language to the agreement that indemnified the county from any related claims.
A recent discussion with a Georgia Environmental Protection Division representative brought another possible liability issue to light, said Deputy County Manager Tim Merritt.
“If this project takes place [and] the road is removed to allow for the culvert construction, there is a possibility that more of the sediment trapped upstream could travel downstream and be deposited into the lake,” Merritt said. “If that were in fact to happen, that could bring additional parties into whatever action that could be going on for the removal of silt.”
Commissioners Todd Levent and Cindy Jones Mills agreed at that point that the project should fall under the city’s purview.
Jarrard said the joint funding could still make the county liable, unless the indemnity language was included in the agreement.
“I cannot tell you they will accept that,” he said.
Levent and Mills also asked about the county’s responsibility to reopen the road, which falls almost entirely in its jurisdiction.
“Forsyth County has an obligation to maintain and repair roads that are within our system,” Jarrard said. “Sanders Road is within our system, [but] there’s a 50-foot swath of Sanders Road right at this creek that is not county road. Why? Because the city of Cumming annexed on both sides of it … We have sort of a perfect storm of an interesting jurisdictional issue.”
In sum, Jarrard said the county and city have an obligation to reopen the road, but the question of responsibility for the damage complicates the matter.
Commissioner Brian Tam said the 50-feet of municipal road cannot be repaired without touching the county road.
“We’ve got to participate,” Tam said.
Jarrard also noted that the county has a precedent for fixing a road and recouping for the damage in court later under a previous incident with Ronald Regan Boulevard at the rock quarry.
Mills said spending $100,000 to repair the road would be much less expensive than a lawsuit.
“I think the citizens deserve to have the road fixed,” Mills said.
Boff was quick to respond: “I do too. I just don’t want to pay for it.”