Mayor Gene Hobgood, who requested the meeting, says he hopes the city will get some sense of the level of interest the county authority might have in taking over the city’s water system, but the authority appears to remain cool to a total takeover.
The meeting is set for 1 p.m. Wednesday at the county Water Authority offices in Canton.
Hobgood said Friday that much of the plan would hinge on what happens with Cobb County-Marietta Water Authority’s first right of refusal for the city’s 25 percent stake in the $100 million plus reservoir project.
“Assuming Cobb doesn’t invoke first right of refusal, I know (Cherokee County has) some interest in the plant, but they also have a lot of unanswered questions,” Hobgood said. “But what we really want to find out is what they need to make a decision about the reservoir, our water and sewerage plants, and whether they would be interested in our distribution and collection system.”
Cherokee Water Authority General Manager Tom Heard said the authority has already stated its position a year ago, and he doesn’t see that changing, especially with uncertainty about Cobb County and the amount of daily withdrawal not yet set by the state.
“The city of Canton asked for a meeting and we have agreed to meet, but we are still in the same position — the water authority has a vote in place from last year that they would consider taking over plants only, and six million gallons of withdrawals from the reservoir,” Heard said Friday.
Heard said that since the state has not issued a permit, that is still “our biggest concern.”
The county water authority manager also said that while the authority might have interest in taking over the plant and a part of the reservoirs withdrawal capacity, they did not anticipate taking over the distribution and customer portion of the city’s water system.
Heard said that the county authority has $5 million on hand that would allow them to purchase the water and sewerage plants the city now owns, as well as the reservoir output without causing any increase to county customers.
“We want to help out the city, but is must be a break even for us,” Heard said.
He also said that the water authority is concerned about the city’s water lines and distribution system.
“Canton would retain its customer base,” Heard said. “There is a lot of expense there and we don’t know how much.”
Hobgood said that if the county assumed the debt on the reservoir, or paid the city $27 million for the deal, there would be $6 million left over after the debt was paid that could be put in an escrow account to help with problems that could arise.
The mayor admitted the council is not united about what should be done about the water system and said he has invited all the council to attend the meeting.
But still uncertainty about the reservoir is dampening enthusiasm for the project.
“Bottom line, the reservoir is the major component,” Hobgood said. “I would like to see if they have an interest in purchasing it and if they would let us purchase part of the capacity at some pre-determined formula at a future time.”
Heard agreed with the mayor that the reservoir is a watershed issue in the proposal.
“There are several issues still involved in the reservoir. The Authority will do the same presentation, simply stating our position,” Heard said. “Our response is we want to help out, but there are a lot of variables.”
Heard said the county knows what it costs to operate plants, but the reservoir is too uncertain.
Members of the water authority include Chair Nancy Martin, chair, County Commission Chair Buzz Ahrens, Robert Morrison, Chris Wilbanks, Mike Byrd, Eric Wilmarth and Steven Woodruff.