Dawsonville and the Etowah Water and Sewer Authority have begun talks on a new agreement that could allow the city to expand its water and sewer customer base.
Mayor James Grogan and City Attorney Dana Miles met Thursday with Etowah officials including Jim King, authority chairman, Brooke Anderson, general manager, and attorney Linda Dunlavy.
County Commissioner Chairman Mike Berg and County Attorney Joey Homans also attended the session, since the matter could affect the county.
Following much discussion, nothing was decided at the meeting. The legal counsel for both parties agreed to meet at a later date after talks with their respective sides.
The city and Etowah have had a service agreement since 1989. At the time, the city was not able to provide enough water for residents. The agreement, which drew a perimeter around the original city limits, was later amended in 1990, 1994, 2006, as water and sewer infrastructure grew.
"We want to be able to serve what is within the city limits," Grogan said. "Etowah can handle the county. We want to serve our base, our city."
The city submitted a proposal to Etowah in May to renegotiate billing plans, as well as the current service area.
Under the plan, the city would terminate all prior agreements between itself and the authority. It would also give the city the right to provide water and sewer to all residents.
Finally, the proposal would end the authority's required water sales to the city.
"Historically, we've served parts of the city. We don't see any problems with that," King said. "The agreement we've had has served us, the county and the city well for many years. We don't see any valid reasons for changing it."
However, Grogan said the setup simply didn't work for the city anymore.
"We see a problem. It's our customers and our citizens," he said. "We want to be able to bill our customers for what they are getting. Nobody will lose any customers either way."
According to the authority, if this were simply a billing issue, any negotiations could easily fall under the current agreement.
"We can do that within the confines of the current agreement," Anderson said. "There wouldn't need to be a new agreement to work out billing."
According to city officials, the perception of receiving sole service from Dawsonville is just the tip of the issue. The city feels confined to its current areas without room to be allowed to grow.
"You're trying to put us in a box and force us to work within it," Grogan said. "We're not out soliciting people into the city, to my knowledge, since I have been here, nor do we intend to. The fear is that we are trying to annex more of the county and take customers. That's not the case at all."
The authority's committee didn't share that view.
"You say we are trying to force you into a box, but by our current agreement, you are already in a box," King said. "There's a clause in our current agreement that says when you outgrow your box, when you reach a certain threshold, then you can expand.
"You haven't reached that yet. The city is sitting in one corner of an empty box wanting another box. That's the way we see it."