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Water contract not finalized
Sides still working on wording of deal
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Forsyth County News

Forsyth County and the city of Cumming have yet to finalize a water agreement reached in late May.

Two days before the expiration of the 25-year water contracts, the governments agreed to the terms of a new deal for the county to buy water from the city.

The intergovernmental agreement that would make the new deal official hasn’t been written to the liking of both sides, said Chris Hamilton, of the law office of Forsyth County’s attorney.

“Versions of the proposed IGA have been exchanged between the city and county attorney’s office[s], and we’re working on those,” Hamilton said during Thursday’s county commission meeting.

At their counsel’s request, Forsyth County commissioners called a special meeting for July 16 to work on an acceptable contract to sign.

The Cumming City Council will meet the following day and could possibly give final approval to the contract, Hamilton said.

Tim Perkins, Forsyth’s director of water and sewer, has previously said the city is charging the county for water based on the previous agreement until the new one is signed.

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

The county buys most of its untreated water from Cumming, as well as some treated water.

At a commission work session in late June, County Attorney Ken Jarrard said the city’s draft of the deal did not separate the treated and untreated agreements and also included language about service boundaries, which was not discussed in the negotiations.

Commissioner Todd Levent said Thursday the drafts provided by the city haven’t been true to what the parties agreed on in late May.

“We continue to redline,” Levent said, “and try to put it more in line with the spirit of the [agreement].”

During public comments, resident Hal Schneider said he’d heard Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt had “reneged” on the original terms in the agreement drafts sent to the county.

“I would urge that the board of commissioners take this as an opportunity to go back and do what is right for the county,” said Schneider, who has closely followed the water situation.

He said the final deal was not good for Forsyth, primarily due to the large quantity of treated water it’s required to buy from the city.

The county can treat water for less, even if it had to pay the fines from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division for exceeding its permitted limits, Schneider said.

The new deal set the county’s 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 the index.
Forsyth will maintain the 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 will 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 will also make available an average of 4.5 million gallons per day of untreated water from its withdrawal permit from the EPD.

The county also agreed to pay up front nearly $11.4 million the city sought for 65 percent of the cost to build a larger water intake in 2009.

The payment would likely come from the water and sewer fund’s money set aside for capital improvements.

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

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