FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. - Homeowners told Channel 2 Action News their city forced them to pay thousands in fees in their plan for a new sewer system. But now the project is canceled, and they will not get their money back.
"We put our money where they asked us to. Now, all of a sudden they've changed their minds," Cumming resident Carolyn Betts told Channel 2's Carl Willis.
Over the summer residents who were tied into the privately owned Habersham wastewater treatment facility were suddenly hit with a $6,250 fee just to continue their sewer service and become new customers of the city of Cumming.
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The city started proceedings to condemn and take the facility. But in a reversal last week, the council decided the site was too small for a new $75 million faciliy and voted to rescind the condemnation, much to the surprise of the facility owners and their attorney George Butler.
"It's too late and they've got a real mess on their hands," Butler said.
The city informed Willis that the thousands of dollars paid in tap fees, "will remain with Cumming Utilities as this is the standard fee paid by all new customers." But they also said handing the plant back over to its owners, "will allow the Habersham Action Committee and other owners to sell the land and permit."
If owners distribute that money back to homeowners as previously promised, it should help homeowners recoup some or all of the money they paid in fees.
"I think we definitely should get some -- it was sort of a flimflam. Now you see it. Now you don't," Betts said.
But the owners' attorney says the city can't just say "never mind."
"Like the sign in the window at that china shop, you broke it you bought it. They've destroyed my client's business," Butler said. He said they'll seek damages from the city.
Meanwhile, residents say they're stuck in limbo.
"You don't play with people like that, with their money," Betts said.
A city spokesperson told Willis the city has paid $300,000 for emergency repairs to the facility. They said the connection fees have gone toward those costs and will go to future repairs.
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