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City, county in Georgia at odds over $11.4 million water deal

A politically charged dispute between the five members of the Forsyth County Commission is directly affecting the county's ability to pay an $11.4 million water invoice. The five members disagree on the water contract agreed to by the county and Cumming, the largest city in Forsyth.

The contract dispute has a serious and direct effect not only on the 47,000 paying residents in Forsyth who depend on the water, but the Atlanta metro area as well. Lake Lanier is where Cumming draws roughly 12.2 million gallons of water a day to provide Forsyth County. A new facility was built in Cumming to help with that water intake.

The city is now calling the county on its $11.4 million tab for the construction of the facility. Without an agreement on the bill, Cumming would have all the leverage in May. That's when the water contract expires, and the city could either withhold water from the county or begin charging whatever rates they wanted.

Because of past dealings and variety of opinions, the five Forsyth County commissioners cannot even begin to handle the water contract dispute. Some want the county to buy cheaper, less-treated water to help save Forsyth residents money. Others seemingly have no solutions, but probably prefer a hasty solution.

Considering that the water rights for Lake Lanier are currently under scrutiny (Florida and Alabama have filed suit over the lake) both the state of Georgia and the Army Corps of Engineers are blocking any attempts to build new water facilities, build new piping or attain a permit to increase water intake levels.

Source: Atlanta Journal Constitution, "Tap running dry on disputed water contract," Patrick Fox, Mar. 11, 2012

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