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Volleying continues as water deadline nears
City's counteroffer before commission
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Forsyth County News

Not pleased with Forsyth County’s most recent water contract proposal, the city of Cumming has countered with a new offer of its own.

In a 4-0 vote Tuesday morning, with Councilman Ralph Perry absent, the council rejected the May 18 proposal, which was similar to non-binding offer the county had submitted May 7.

“This one to me is actually worse than the other [non-binding] one,” said Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt during a special called meeting.

Gravitt noted the new binding offer included several additional terms from the non-binding one, which council voted down during its regular monthly meeting May 15.

Among them, Gravitt said, was a statement that the county has no legal obligation to pay the city $11.4 million, which the city is seeking as payment for a portion of an intake facility it built on Lake Lanier.

The city has a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw water from the lake, while the county does not.

As a result, the county buys  most of its untreated water and some treated water from the city under terms established in a 25-year contract that began in 1987.

That contract expires Saturday.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Gravitt proposed that city council send a new counter offer to the county in time for commissioners to discuss during a work session later that day.

Council agreed 4-0 to the plan, which was similar to a May 7 version the city submitted and the county turned down.

“This [new] proposal is basically for treated water, a rate of $2.25 per 1,000 gallon for a five-year contract, which we think is a certainly more than a fair deal,” Gravitt said.

He added that the treated water portion of the new counteroffer had been “tweaked” to remove a second tier of a three-tiered pay structure.

Under the new proposal, the county would pay $2.25 for the first 3.33 million gallons per month, and water beyond the 3.33 million-gallon mark would cost $3.50 per 1,000 gallons.

As for untreated water, the new proposal states the county would pay 50 cents per 1,000 gallons up to 3.3 billion gallons per year. Any amount over the 3.3 billion gallons per year would cost 75 cents per 1,000 gallons.

The city’s proposal again asked the county to pay $11.4 million for 65 percent allocation of its intake facility.

The fee has been a point of contention between the entities in previous proposals, with the county seeking 65 percent ownership of the intake in exchange for the fee.

In light of the fast approaching deadline, city council also voted 4-0 to authorize Gravitt to sign off on any agreement between the county.

“If there’s any small tweaking to what we’re sending them, we authorize you to make that and to sign off on it,” said Councilman Lewis Ledbetter in his motion.

Jim Boff and several other county commissioners attended Tuesday morning’s morning.

“We hope we can get a copy of their proposal before [our meeting] so that we can discuss it and see if there’s anything we can find acceptable in it or, as [Gravitt] suggested, tweak it and meet with the mayor or signal to him whatever the tweak is and come to some sort of resolution,” said Boff, who chairs the commission.