By Heather Mullinix
Crossville City Councilman Pete Souza believes incorporation would provide relief for the residents of the Tansi area struggling to find a solution to its sewer service issues.
"As I see it, the only solution is for Tansi to incorporate," Souza wrote in a statement to the Chronicle. "The people of Tansi could merge the water and sewer and use them to their advantage."
A small portion of the area is currently served by the Tansi Sewer Utility District, but many in the community have objected to expansion of the service due to costs and other concerns. The district is also facing lawsuits stemming from a loan made by the Lake Tansi Property Owners Association to Tansi Waste Management, Inc., the non-profit corporation that built the wastewater treatment plant and many of the lines serving the POA amenities, RCI timeshare facilities and a few private residences. There is also pending litigation regarding engineering fees that have not been paid.
Crossville Mayor J.H. Graham III has proposed merging TSUD and the South Cumberland Utility District, which serves Lake Tansi, with the city of Crossville's water and sewer departments.
"I have been asked several times why I oppose the Tansi sewer merger," Souza wrote. "The answer, in a nut shell: it is a failed business plan and lies outside of the citizens of Crossville responsibility to pick up the burden."
Souza said there are three distinct demographics in Cumberland County, those living inside an incorporated city, those living in the rural, unincorporated areas and those who live in private communities that wish to remain segregated and distinct from the other two groups.
"While the mayor sees everyone in a golf cart, the reality is the common citizen does not see life revolving around the closed communities, and they feel that tax dollars spent to benefit the private sector is tantamount to institutionalized robbery," Souza wrote. "This in turn drives a deeper wedge within the residents of Cumberland County."
While the issues of cost of service, environmental impact and need for the sewer system, Souza says the problem he finds is with the POA, which is suffering from bad decisions and business plans in the past and a perceived failure to listen to the membership.
"The damage is so acute that I doubt they can reconcile their differences," Souza wrote.
Graham stated previously he developed the merger proposal, which currently calls for a $50 a month minimum service fee with no charge to those not utilizing the sewer service, as well as a reduction of 7 to 10 percent in all SCUD water rates, to "be a good neighbor" and to support growth in all of Cumberland County, noting much of the sales tax collected inside the city comes from those living outside the city limits.
Souza says that does not mean the city residents should be saddled with the burden of paying for the sewer service, as well as added costs from pending litigation.
"The argument that Crossville citizens should pick up the tab solely because people in Tansi spend money in Crossville is ludicrous," Souza wrote. "Why not put sidewalks in Browntown? People outside of Crossville do not pay city taxes and subsidizing private communities' problems and events is not their responsibility."
Souza notes there would be challenges to incorporating the Tansi community, but he believes a pilot program could be authorized by the Tennessee General Assembly and the city of Crossville could offer guidance and support, stating "Crossville could be used for a train trust to help the fledgling city get organized."
"The new city could grow from the ashes of what is now a failed system," Souza said. "It's not an easy solution, but is no less viable than the idea that Crossville will bear their burden."