Members of the Cherokee County Water and Sewerage Authority sat down on Wednesday with five of the six members of the Canton City Council and Mayor Gene Hobgood to see where they were on negotiations.
Councilman Bill Bryan was not present.
Canton leaders called the meeting to see if the board still had interest in taking over operations at the city’s water and wastewater treatment plants.
The city also wanted to see if authority staff and board members were still interested in taking over its 25 percent stake in the reservoir.
The city and the Cobb County-Marietta Water Authority jointly own and operate the reservoir.
Authority staff and board members directed the city to begin the process of compiling information on the city’s water and sewer system and bringing back a detail proposal outlining costs, maintenance and improvement requirements and any debt the city has in relation to the system.
Authority General Manager Tom Heard said the authority has to be adamant about protecting its present customers.
He said there may be a system in which the authority may set up a separate rate structure to finance projects specifically needed for Canton.
“Otherwise, our customers would be stuck subsidizing city residents,” he said.
Cherokee authority board chair Nancy Martin said the idea of a reservoir sounds good, but added she doesn’t see the need for CCWSA to acquire another reservoir.
The authority already has one reservoir, Hollis Q. Lathem Reservoir, which sits on Yellow Creek in northeast Cherokee County.
The Cherokee authority last August drafted a memo, which served as the basis of a formal discussion between the authority and the city.
The memo stipulated CCWSA would take over operations of the city’s water and wastewater treatment plant and provide water and sewer capacity to the city.
However, Canton would maintain control over its collection and distribution system and maintain control over water and sewer billing.
The memo hinged on the possibility of Canton selling its share of the reservoir to the Cobb authority, but that aspect remains up in the air as the city and the Cobb authority have been deadlocked on whether the authority should give up its first right of refusal for Canton to market its 25 percent share.
Canton and the Cobb authority in 2000 entered into a 50-year agreement to build the pumped-storage reservoir just off the Etowah River.
Cobb owns 75 percent of the reservoir while Canton has a 25 percent stake in the project.
Cobb is paying three-fourths of the tab, with the city responsible for the remainder — with the same split for sharing the drinking water supply created by the reservoir.
The nearly $100 million price tag for the dam and reservoir was significantly more than the original $20 million estimate when officials approved the project in 2000.
City leaders say the water and sewer system and the reservoir is a package deal, as the city would have no use for the reservoir if it has no control over its system.
“If we can’t treat the water, what good is to have the reservoir?” said Council member Glen Cummins, adding he thought the meeting was productive.
Hobgood agreed, noting the reservoir—and its debt—have to be part of the discussion with the city.
“I think it has to be part of the consideration at least unless someone else comes into the discussion,” he said, adding he believes the discussion was positive and looks forward to moving on with the next step.
However, Councilman Bob Rush noted he believes the city needs to take responsibility for its water and sewer system and noted he believes the city is in the same place it was with Cherokee last year.
“I’m more of the opinion that Canton needs to keep the reservoir and water and sewer plants and find a way we can sustain both,” he said.