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Sanders Road solution in sight; county open to sharing repair costs

EAST FORSYTH — The governments of Cumming and Forsyth County appear to have agreed on a plan that could result in the reopening of Sanders Road after more than two years.

During their work session Tuesday, Forsyth County commissioners agreed to pay half of the estimated $434,000 repair cost to the city once the project was finished. That would amount to about $217,000.

Sanders has been closed between Buford Dam and Mary Alice Park roads since spring 2013. The closure came after an earthen dam holding back the former Lake Alice breeched during heavy rain and washed out part of the road.

The county’s vote was 3-1, with Commissioner Jim Boff opposed. Pete Amos, who chairs the commission, recused himself because his wife is part of the Mashburn Family Trust, which owned the dam and has been involved in litigation over the matter with the two local governments.

The Cumming City Council must still approve the plan. It likely will consider the matter at its next meeting, scheduled for Sept. 15.

The issue has been a complicated one. The county owns the road, a popular cut-through that passes through a heavily wooded residential area east of Cumming and along Lake Lanier, except for a 50 foot portion the city annexed.

The two governments had been at an impasse over the costs and liability. Under the agreement, the city will put out for bid and permit the project, while the county won’t be liable for damages.

“That’s what we’ve been hoping from the city for, is for the city to take the lead,” said Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills.

The plan will call for two box culverts to be placed under the road to allow the stream, which had previously flowed into Lake Alice, to reach Lake Lanier and for the road to be repaired and reopened.

The city had presented the county with two possible solutions for the impasse on Sanders.

The second option, if the county didn’t want to be involved, called for leaving the road closed and installing a gabion wall, or a wall made of large rocks held in place by wire that allows water — but not large debris — to flow through.

Boff, whose District 5 covers the road, made a motion prior to the vote to give the city $54,000 upon completion of the repairs. The motion also included sending a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers saying the county did not want to abandon the road. The motion failed.

During the meeting, Boff said several uncompleted projects involving Cumming and Forsyth made him reluctant to give the city money.

City Manager Gerald Blackburn said officials would like to have the work finished by the end of the year, but will know more about the timeframe as the project commences.

“Any time that you can get governments to work together on a project, that’s a positive thing,” he said. “This will work out and be to everybody’s advantage. It should be brought to conclusion pretty quick.”

This is the second cleanup effort that has developed this summer, after the city brought in a firm to stabilize the stream and bed of the former Lake Alice.

And in a related matter, the city last month hired River Sand Inc. of Cleveland to dredge the nearby cove Lanier, on the east side of Sanders, which was impacted by the silt and sediment from the dam breech. The contract totaled $247,470.

City officials said the dredging will involve long arm excavators and an amphibious excavator, which floats in water, to take the sediment out of the cove and haul it off in dump trucks.

Nearby residents have long wanted the situation resolved, noting that silt continues to flow into the cove after every hard rain. And a group of them has sued the city, county and Mashburn Family Trust over the issue.