By Heather Mullinix
Complaints and concerns from customers regarding the Tansi Sewer Utility District have prompted the South Cumberland Utility District, the water service provider for the area, to sever an agreement with the sewer utility.
Sandy Brewer, SCUD general manager, told the Chronicle the SCUD board voted last week to provide notice to TSUD it would terminate an agreement to disconnect water service to properties where sewer service has been disconnected due to nonpayment.
"We did pass the service termination agreement in June," Brewer said. "When the board approved that, it required a paragraph in the customer contract that made the customer aware that water service could be disconnected if sewer was disconnected.
"And that makes sense. You don't want water going into a home and not have anywhere for it to go."
State law does allow water and sewer utility districts to enter into such agreements.
The TSUD customer contract did include that notification, as well as a provision either party could cancel the agreement with 30-days notice.
"We've been bombarded by our customers who, from what they were telling us, felt threatened that they would lose water service if they didn't sign up for sewer service," Brewer said. "We've had numerous complaints."
Many SCUD customers also pay their monthly water bills by bank draft, Brewer said, and several began canceling that service saying they heard SCUD would be doing the billing for TSUD. There has never been an agreement for SCUD to bill TSUD customers, she said.
"The board felt it best at this time to step back from the controversy," Brewer said.
Claude "Duke" Coyne, general manager of TSUD, said, "That was one of the collection tools we had. But when we first contemplated being able to provide service to the public, we didn't have that agreement in place then. It just makes it more difficult for us to collect unpaid service charges. They have their reasons, but we'll survive."
TSUD has proposed fees that would be based on a customer's water usage. Brewer said there had also been no agreement to provide that information to TSUD.
"When the sewer district was formed, South Cumberland had to give up its rights to provide sewer service. At that time, the board was told service would be a flat rate. That has changed," Brewer said. "The board stated they were not entering into an agreement with TSUD for that information unless they were required to do so."
Coyne said, "We do not have any agreement. We'll have to look into that."