Forsyth County and city of Cumming water issue headed to mediation

Judge to hear Forsyth County and city of Cumming contract dispute Oct. 16

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FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — The county has delayed a discussion of filing a lawsuit to stop the city of Cumming from turning off its raw water.

The two municipalities will instead hold mediation Oct. 16.

Forsyth County Commissioners and the city of Cumming will hold mediation with former Georgia Supreme Court Justice Norman Fletcher to discuss their local option sales tax (LOST) split and now, discuss their water contract, which expired in May.

Forsyth County Commissioners were told the city had voted to extend their raw water rate until Oct. 31 instead of their Oct. 1 deadline. The city’s threat to shut off the raw water supply includes only allowing the county to purchase finished water.

Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt said at the council meeting that the city’s water is an enterprise fund.

Forsyth County has also tried to secure more water intake from the state and federal government.

Under the city’s threat, the county would be cut off from buying the less expensive raw water at 10 cents per 1,000 gallons and would only be able to buy the more expensive treated water at $2.43 per 1,000 gallons.

Hal Schneider, chairman of Forsyth County Tea Party and one of the most vocal on the water issue, said he was disappointed the county removed the discussion of legal action from the their Sept. 20 meeting agenda.

“If the mediation doesn’t work out, you’ll have two weeks before the water gets shut off, if it’s not resolved in mediation,” Schneider said. “Getting an injunction in place would have removed a disruption of the raw water supply to the county and it would have removed that as a threat during your negotiations and mediations.”

Commissioner Patrick Bell said there is a lot of misconception about this being a safety hazard issue and that the water will not be turned off for county residents.

“The city is not going to do that, they are not going to put our residents at risk,” Bell said. “There’s a disagreement and it’s going to be expensive.”

Commissioner Pete Amos recused himself from voting because he owns a company that buys water from the city.

In February, Amos told commissioners during a work session that city officials had wanted to hold their water contract talks along with LOST negotiations.

LOST is a 1 percent tax to help local governments rollback property rates. The county and city are headed to mediation to decide a split of proceeds based on services provided by each government.

ALSO AT THE REGULAR MEETING:

* Forsyth County Commissioners voted 3-2 to sponsor an application by the Grand Cascades subdivision for a Georgia Environmental Protection Division grant to clean up retention ponds and repair two dams in Suwanee.

Commissioners Todd Levent and Patrick Bell opposed.

“I’m still not convinced that we need to use government resources for a private community,” Bell said. “I’m sensitive to their problem, but I don’t think it’s the county’s position to do that.”

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