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City of Cumming, Forsyth County Water War Ends

Forsyth County officials inked an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) Friday that will require the county to pay $11.5 million for the city's water intake facility.

After a lengthy, and often bitter, year-long battle, Forsyth County and the City of Cumming ended their water war Friday.

During a special called joint meeting, city and county officials approved four intergovernmental agreements (IGA), two that will govern water distribution, another that establishes distribution of local option sales tax (LOST) revenue, and another that funds improvement of roads and bridges.

The LOST agreement, which passed 4-1 with Commissioner Todd Levent opposed, will be implemented in two five-year phases. For the first five years starting Jan. 1, the city will continue to receive 15 percent of the tax. That amount will be reduced to 13 percent for the second five-year period, starting Jan. 1, 2018.

The raw and finished water IGA, which passed 4-0 with Commissioner Pete Amos recused, will span 30 years but gives the county an option to renew after each 10-year period. The county will still pay $2.43 per 1,000 gallons of finished water.

But the cost to buy raw water from the city has gone up fivefold, from 10 cents to 50 cents per 1,000 gallons. The county will also pay the city $11.5 million for its share of the city-owned water intake facility.

Chairman Jim Boff, who has long advocated water independence for the county, said, "Having dealt with this issue for almost 12 months, I have now come to the conclusion there are too many regulatory hurdles for the county to achieve that goal at the present time."

The new IGA, he added, will save the county about $1 million a year because it reduces by 75 percent the amount of finished water the county will be required to buy from the city.

The two sides also signed a roads and bridges IGA that will require the county to pay the city $3.5 million for road improvements to Lanier Parkway, the Bald Ridge Marina Road/Market Place Boulevard intersection and Kelly Mill Road.

Forsyth County Tea Party Chairman Hal Schneider expressed his displeasure after the meeting.

"It sounds to me like the county caved in again," he said. "Not only did they give (the city) 15 percent for the first five years, but on top of that, they gave them $3.5 million for road work. So I'm very disappointed the county didn't hold its ground. Jim Boff said he had data to support giving the city 7-8 percent and I think they should have stuck to that. I was glad to see at least one commissioner stood his ground. I applaud Commissioner Levent for that."

Forsyth County Republican Party Vice Chairman Richard Ward said, "On the surface, I was very disappointed with the decisions today. But I have a great deal of respect for Jim Boff and he's privy to a lot of detailed information I don't know about. I honestly believe Jim got the best deal that we could get under the circumstances."      

Hal Schneider October 27, 2012 at 03:53 PM
The Mayor got just about everything he wanted, while the county residents and taxpayers will be footing the bill for funding the City to the tune of about $2.5M annually for water OVER what the county actually needs or should be paying for and about $3M annually in excessive LOST revenues. The $36M that the county should have saved just on water over the next 10 years, would have paid for our new intake and many other upgrades that will be needed in the future. Now the County will have to obtain that money through bonds and higher taxes, when the time comes! My hats off to the Mayor for a masterful strategy to secure the necessary votes on the County Board of Commissioners and marshaling the support of Jack Murphy, Mark Hamilton, Justin Turner (EPD Director) and the Governor to protect his interests over those of the county residents. The County Board of Commissioners were shown to be the negotiating amateurs that they truly are in comparison! Of course, with all of those powers brought to bear against the only two commissioners who were actually trying to protect the county, the outcome was a foregone conclusion long ago.

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