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Water deal down to the wire
More back and forth in negotiations
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Forsyth County News

The proposal seesaw continued Tuesday afternoon as Forsyth County commissioners sent another offer to the city of Cumming in the ongoing negotiations over expiring water contracts.

The commission rejected the city’s offer, sent that morning, and approved another proposal in a 4-0 vote, with Commissioner Pete Amos recused.

Amos has recused himself from all votes and discussion on the matter, citing a conflict of interest due to his ownership of A&A Water Company, which buys and resells city and county water.

Forsyth doesn’t have a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw water from Lake Lanier, but the city does.

With no other immediate options for water, Forsyth hopes to renegotiate terms with Cumming.

The county buys most of its untreated water from Cumming, as well as some treated water, under a 25-year agreement. That deal expires Saturday.

Tuesday’s binding offer by the commissioners is the third since late April.

The Cumming City Council has rejected the first two and returned two counter proposals this month.

The latest offer from the county would set the price for treated water at $2.25 per 1,000 gallons, adjusted to the consumer price index. The county currently pays about $2.43 per 1,000 gallons, also subject to a CPI.

Forsyth would have a minimum purchase of 1.6 billion gallons per year, and the contract would last for five years, with a five-year option to renew.

For untreated water, the county would pay the current rate of a little more than 10 cents per 1,000 gallons, also subject to a price index, for 15 years with a 15-year option to renew.

In addition, the city would also make available an average of 4.5 million gallons per day of untreated water from its withdrawal permit from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

The county would also agree to pay up front the $11.4 million invoice the city sent for 65 percent of the cost to construct a larger water intake in 2009.

In return, the county would receive at least 65 percent of any future withdrawals permitted by the EPD and use of the structure for its lifespan.

The proposal also requires the city to work with the county on seeking permit increases.

Commissioner Brian Tam made the motion for the proposal, working to a middle ground with Commissioner Todd Levent.

Levent, who participated in the meeting by phone from Kansas, had concerns about buying too much treated water from the city, while Tam didn’t want to risk coming up short.

Tim Perkins, the county’s director of water and sewer, explained after the meeting that the county needs to buy water from the city to meet its current needs.

When the county’s expanded water treatment plant opens in July, Forsyth will have the ability to treat up to 26 million gallons per day. That’s up from its current maximum capability of 14 mgd, Perkins said.

The county’s withdrawal permit, which sets a maximum day of 16 mgd of untreated water, applies to the plant also, but the city could request that the state allow Forsyth to treat some of Cumming’s water, he said.

Water in storage can also be treated to meet demands that have exceeded 21 mgd on a peak day, Perkins said, but the county still would need to buy water from the city.

The deal proposed by commissioners on Tuesday is projected to save nearly $12 million over the current contract in 10 years if the county stops buying finished water from Cumming in five, he said.

Commissioners set another meeting for 9 this morning, in hopes that the city would have reviewed the offer and responded.
“I think we’re getting close here,” Tam said.