By Clinton Gill
Smoke Signals editor
The Tansi Sewer Utility District submitted the names of three possible candidates for the county mayor to select from for the open board position following the announcement that James Heath would be leaving, effective March 16. In order of preference, Ellinore Schmidt, Frank Kierce and William Corbin were advanced by the sitting commissioners for further consideration by County Mayor Kenneth Carey Jr.
The decision was reached unanimously after each candidate was introduced and given the opportunity to explain why they should be selected.
Kierce was first in the chute. When asked why he should be selected, he stated, "I don't know. The last time I tried this, I was rejected right off the bat, and my attitude is still the same. I want to help all of these people that are gonna have to pay for this." He continued, "The town is trying to get sewer in here, and they want to charge us $50 a month. Now that's a lot of money for a lot of people. And I think there should be a way to stop this town from coming in here. Because if we don't, I'm afraid the next thing they're going to do is annex us."
Heath noted in response that, in the last meeting he attended, one of the city commissioners brought up annexation as a way to offset the costs the city would become liable for, should the proposed utility merger go through. Commissioner Trey Kerley was quick to clarify the subject of annexation was not being considered as a serious proposal.
"That's not on any proposed agenda, and I was told there would be no annexation if this ever went through," he said. "I don't think we should be talking about it."
Commissioner Heath went on to explain his objection to Kierce's nomination last year, "I think I stated last year, I felt, because of your activities with 'Stop Tansi Sewer' was something that I couldn't support, and that's the reason I objected last year."
"There's several things that really bother me," Heath continued, "one is the mayor's statement that we are probably three years, or less, away from a state ban on building out here, because the state is at the point where they're liable to come out and say 'We're sorry, your overall sewer solution is not satisfactory to protect the lake.'"
Schmidt was next to explain her candidacy, "I'm a single homeowner. I'm just your average person here. Before, when people would come to the board to try and explain their situation, people like myself felt like we were ignored. I think there are more people like me here than the big homeowners, and I think we need to consider what they're saying ... There are people out here with real problems."
Commissioner Virgil Ferguson responded, "With the sewer district, there are rules and regulations that you have to go by, and it may not be exactly what you think is right ... A commissioner has to do what's right for the utility district and what's right for current customers and future customers."
Kerley added, "You have to take an oath of office, and if you don't look out for the best interests of the sewer district, and the customers and the future customers, there's a lot of trouble you can get in."
"My feeling is, Tansi Sewer is here to stay, one way or the other," said Ferguson. "Whether it's gonna be run by Tansi Sewer Utility District or if the lawsuits require it to go somewhere else, or there's a merger between the city. This sewer district is here. It's going to operate."
Kerley asked Schmidt, "Have you had any direct involvement with the Tansi Stop Sewer group? ... Did you sign the petition?"
"Yes," Schmidt responded. "I think they did good in that they brought some facts out that a lot of people didn't know about. There were some things that were going on that, if they hadn't done some of the things they did, I don't think that Tansi would be as well off as what they are today."
William Corbin took the floor next. "The reason I want to be on the board, is to help serve the community, Tansi. Since it is a sewage utility district, my primary interest is in the design and functionality of the sewer system – Maximum efficiency and minimal cost to the folks who live in Tansi."
It was noted that Corbin did not have any involvement with the Stop Tansi Sewer campaign.
Schmidt was chosen as the top pick, due to her regular meeting attendance and evident interest in the issues facing the board. The motion passed unanimously.
Other business discussed at the meeting included adopting a resolution to address reimbursement for travel expenses. According to the Tennessee Department of Labor website, the current state employee mileage rate is 47 cents as of Aug. 1, 2011. A regulation addressing the rate will be on the agenda at the next board meeting in April.
Also on next month's agenda will be discussion of pump maintenance. Chris Selk proposed providing a one time preventive maintenance and cleaning service on Hiawatha West for $1,650. The board will discuss establishing an hourly emergency maintenance charge in the event of service calls at the next meeting.
Next month's agenda will also include working on actions to be taken on delinquent accounts. Health code prevents sewer services from being disrupted. Solutions proposed included requiring a refundable deposit or charging a minimum bill per month to cover expenses.
Finally, the board will adopt a policy outlining the qualifications for commissioners. The next board meeting will be held on April 16 at 4 p.m.