By Heather Mullinix
The Tansi Sewer Utility District board of directors voted Wednesday to remove a provision from its rules and regulations that would require those with sewer service availability to pay a one-time availability fee as well as monthly service fees, regardless of if the customer uses the service or not.
"As far as I know, this has never had the interest of all the sitting members of the board that we will be using that," said Jim Heath, TSUD director. "To me, if it's not being used, it's useless printing on a piece of paper."
The rule, paragraph 3A of the TSUD rules and regulations, stated those owning improved parcels that were contiguous to public rights-of-way or public utility easements where a public sewer main was installed were deemed to have sewer service available and "shall pay the District's availability fee and shall begin paying the District's monthly sewer service rate as set forth in the District's Schedule of Rates and Charges after 60 days of sewer service availability. The District will notify property owners of the date the public sewer main is installed and placed into service."
The availability fee is $1,500 for residential property and the monthly service fee is $50.
Heath said he had reviewed the proposal by Virgil Ferguson and was prepared to support removing that provision from the rules at the following meeting so that Trey Kerley, director, could review the policy. Kerley said he had reviewed the proposal and didn't need to wait a month to move forward with a motion to delete the availability fee and service fee from the rules. He moved to remove the availability and service fee, supported by Heath.
Mary Aggers asked, "Are you going to say that you're going to make this regulation permanent? Or is this a temporary change in your regulations? That's critical."
Aggers worried that the district was changing the rules and regulations at this time but would reinstate the availability provision, which is allowed under state law, in the future. She said future bond financing would require a guarantee of how the loans would be repaid. Steve Franks added the state could step in and require the district to charge the fee.
"The state can say everyone sitting in these chairs is out and they will put in three people of their choice and they'll do whatever they please," Heath said.
Heath said the state required the district to stay solvent, which he said the district was at this time. However, the district is facing a lawsuit regarding liability for a loan from the Lake Tansi Property Owners Association to Tansi Waste Management, Inc., predecessor to TSUD. TWMI transferred its assets to TSUD after the public utility was formed.
Aggers said the removal of the availability fee could give residents false hope they would not face the charges in the future.
"And then, in six months, they get a big surprise," she said. "If they stay in business, they can't continue to mark time. Eventually when you borrow money, there's going to be a lot of people thinking this won't affect them and it eventually will affect everybody. And I'm not sure the state isn't going to say they can't do this anyway."
Heath said the district was not in a position to borrow funds at this time, especially with pending litigation. He also noted that though the rules had been in place for more than a year, it had not been enforced by the board.
Davy Crockett said, "Taking that regulation out would be a very good thing; however, if they ever want to bring it back, all you have to do is vote it back in."
Kerley said, "We can't promise anything. What we're trying to do is tell you we will take this out if that's what you want."
Ken Deadmon said, "I commend you. There's not any way that any human being can promise that this will always remain the same."
Virgil Ferguson said, "The people I talked to, 90 percent of the people didn't like that threat hanging over their head."
In other business, a third member has not yet been appointed to serve on the board following the resignation of Herb Pallatt in March. Heath said Cumberland County Mayor Kenneth Carey Jr. should be making that appointment within the next couple of weeks.
There has been no movement on the lawsuit with the POA, Heath reported. Also, the district's attorney is waiting for documentation on who ordered work from ECE Engineering Services, whether TSUD, TWMI or the POA, to settle an outstanding bill that stood at $430,000 in February.