Forsyth delays decision on water contract

At a public hearing Thursday, the Forsyth County Commission voted unanimously to hold off on a decision to either ask the city for an extension of the current contract or hammer out an agreement before the May 26 deadline.

Commissioner Brian Tam, who proposed the delay, said the issue will be discussed at the commission's work session Tuesday.

At issue is the price Forsyth County pays for its chief source of water. Forsyth paid Cumming about $3.9 million last year for treated water and about $300,000 for raw water that it processes at its own plant. The county is also considering whether to pay a $11.4 million bill the city says it owes for its share of a new intake plant at Lake Lanier.

Cumming Mayor Ford Gravitt said last month that he's grown impatient waiting for an offer from the county. If the current contract expires, he added, county customers can expect to see a dramatic increase in rates.

Residents at Thursday's meeting called on county commissioners to quit arguing among themselves and present a proposal.

Attorney Frank Jenkins, representing Planning Commission member Joe Moses, said county commissioners with business ties to the city should recuse themselves from the water negotiations. He said court rulings have upheld residents' rights to invalidate votes where such a conflict has been proven.

But Commissioner Pete Amos, who operates a water supply business based in Cumming, said he would not recuse himself because he buys water from both the county and the city.

Julian Bowen, a former county commissioner who spoke at the meeting, said the public hearing was a waste of time because the delay left residents with nothing to comment on.

"I'd like for you to have another public hearing after you've got a finished document that has been agreed upon by the commissioners that we can talk about," he said.

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