- Local News
--By Brad Wilkins on --
While preparing for a recent article on the City of Cumming’s decision not to sell raw water to Forsyth County, I reached out to Hal Schneider, the Chairman of the Forsyth County Tea Party, to get his response to this developing story. Mr. Schneider had conducted extensive research on the water issue earlier in the year. Below is the full text of his responses to my inquiry.
CummingHome.com: Were you surprised by the Mayor’s announcement this week that the City of Cumming will no longer sell raw water to the Citizens of Forsyth County?
Hal Schneider: “Actually, given the way the Mayor has handled the water negotiations from the beginning, nothing really surprises me. It also does not surprise me that all members of the City Council voted in favor of the Mayor’s position. Not a single one among them had the integrity to stand up and tell the Mayor that he is out of line and needs to honor the agreement that he signed with the County on May 24th. The reality is, that the City MIGHT be able to finish enough water for both the City and the County during the winter months, but late next spring of next year the City would not have the capacity at their treatment plants, nor would they have the EPD permits required to finish enough water for everyone. The idea is simply unworkable from a practical standpoint, but could garner the City a huge windfall of extra cash in the interim.”
CummingHome.com: I thought the City and County had reached an agreement on water. Do you think the Mayor has violated that agreement? Why?
Hal Schneider: “I don’t think there is any doubt that the County and the City signed an “agreement in principle” on May 24th, which is binding on both parties. It was given to the attorneys to iron out the actual legal language. What happened was, that the City attempted to add many terms to the contract that were not part of the original signed deal, and the County Attorney took them out because they were so far afield from the intent of the May agreement. The City then reneged completely on the deal. When the County tried to extend the “old” agreement until a binding agreement could be finalized, the City came back and said that it would not sell raw water to the county; only treated water. By taking this stance, the City would boost its water revenues from approximately $511,000 annually (14MGD @ $0.10 per thousand gallons), to $12,775,000 annually (14MGD @ $2.50 per thousand gallons). This is all about money. The Mayor sees that the County is becoming independent of the City regarding its needs for the more expensive treated water. When the Antioch plant’s expansion is fully operational and permitted by the EPD, the County will have no need to buy any treated water from the City. This will represent a huge loss of water revenues to the City, and the Mayor is trying every trick in the book to prevent the County from ending its treated water purchases.”
CummingHome.com: During the Campaign, Commissioner Bell claimed that the Mayor followed Tea Party Principals. As chairman of the Forsyth County Tea Party, do you think the Mayor’s decision not to sell raw water to Forsyth County follows Tea Party Principals?
Hal Schneider: “Frankly, I don’t think either the Mayor or Patrick Bell have any concept of what Tea Party Principles are. They were both huge supporters of SPLOST VII. City and County budgets have grown under both while the national economy has shrunk over the past four years. Both of these individuals appear to only be interested in satisfying certain special interests within the county/city.”
CummingHome.com: What should Forsyth County citizens do next?
Hal Schneider: “It would be nice to see the citizens of the county actually sit up and take notice of what the Mayor is attempting to do to them. As more than one county commissioner has pointed out, no one is filling their mailboxes with complaints about this issue. No one is beating down their doors or complaining about the cost of water. When I asked if that is what was required in order for them to do “the right thing” for the county, all I got was silence. Other than contacting their District Commissioner and telling them not to buy ANY treated water from the City that is not needed and not to pay the $11.4M invoice from the city for the intake upgrade that the county attorney has advised is not owed, it is up to the BoC to take the next step!”
CummingHome.com: How do you think the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners should respond?
Hal Schneider: “The RIGHT thing to do would be for all 4 of the commissioners who can vote on this issue (Amos has recused himself due to a conflict of interest) to immediately go to the EPD and Corps of Engineers to get allocations and permits approved that are appropriate for the population of the county. Then they should vote to take the Mayor to court to force him to deliver raw water to the county in whatever quantities are required to satisfy the needs of the County at a rate that represents the City’s cost for delivering that water plus a very small surcharge. After all, the Mayor does NOT own the water. The state of Georgia owns the water, and the county simply needs to have the water delivered to its treatment facilities.”
“Unfortunately, Commissioners Tam and Bell have been negotiating on behalf of the Mayor ever since these negotiations began, instead of working on behalf of the people who elected them! As a result, we have a 2/2 split in the vote which creates a deadlock on any motion that comes before the board on this issue, including taking the City to court.”
“Since, there is currently no proper authorization in place for the county to continue paying the invoices being sent to the County by the City for the water it is receiving, perhaps it would be wise for the BoC to escrow the payments according to what they believe is the appropriate amount due to the City, and not pay the invoices. This is about the only way that the issue would wind up in court, if the Mayor wants to get paid. He would have to sue the County for payment.”