Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

February 20, 2013

TSUD approves $50 per diem

By Heather Mullinix
Assistant editor

CROSSVILLE — The Tansi Sewer Utility District approved a resolution to forward to the state comptroller's office to allow members of the board to receive per diem pay for attendance at meetings.

Kris Burke, Tansi resident, said, "I think every one of you, and the ones before you, when you took this position, you took it as a voluntary position...You don't need to pay yourselves. They never asked for a penny while they were doing it because they didn't want to get paid."

Virgil Ferguson, commissioner, said, "If you looked at the books right here and see how many people are pulling money out of this little small utility district here, because every question it costs money. I spend time down here and am back and forth three or four times a week. It ain't the money. If I'm going to burn up gasoline, if I'm going to take my time, I need to be compensated just a little bit.

"Fifty bucks a month or $100 bucks a month ain't nothing. If you looked to see how many people are grabbing a little something out of here every time — if they're going to get it, I need to get it."

Burke said the district's customer base was not growing, there were no plans to extend the system and there were no grants to apply for or administer.

"Lawsuits are all that's going on, so why do you have so much going on?" Burke asked. "You're just adding to the problem."

The resolution calls for commissioners to be paid $50 per meeting attended, up to $600 per year. Last month, the board approved payment of $100 per meeting, up to $1,200 per year. Ferguson asked why the amount had been changed. A regulation was found in the Utility Commissioners handbook on the Tennessee Association of Utility District's website stating utilities with fewer than 500 customers could pay commissioners $50 a meeting, up to 12 meetings per year. TSUD has about six residential customers and serves the Tansi Property Owners Association and the RCI timeshare facilities.

"I don't think it's really spelled out exactly what we can do," Ferguson said. "I've looked at the handbook. It says the meetings can be up to $300 per meeting for up to 12 meetings.

"Where did this $50 come from? There's confusion by looking at our handbook. I don't really know. It's immaterial. I'm not here to get paid for this service. I'm here to see if we're going to do it and by what authority we're going to do it."

Last month, Ferguson noted commissioners were spending their own money to travel back and forth to meetings for TSUD as well as meetings concerning a possible merger with the city of Crossville. Commissioner Trey Kerley has to leave his place of employment early each month to attend the meetings.

Kerley agreed regulations on what the commissioners could be paid were confusing, with some referring to population of the district while others focused on the number of customers.

"I don't think we'd be in the wrong with $50," Kerley said.

He moved to approve the resolution, supported by Ferguson. The resolution was approved.

Ferguson noted the district had no policy or procedures for reimbursing commissioners for travel expenses incurred on behalf of the district, such as traveling to required training. Jim Heath, president of the board, said prior commissioners had agreed to bear that cost and take turns driving to locations for training so there were no policies in place at this time.

Heath said the commissioners would have to approve a policy before commissioners could be reimbursed. He is leaving the board at the end of his term, March 16, and suggested the commissioners discuss such policies with the new board member.

The board also approved assigning payroll duties to Bookkeeping and Business Solutions, at an additional cost of $25.79 per month. This has been recommended by auditors so that payroll is handled out of house. Bookkeeping and Business Solutions prepares the district's tax statements and other financial reports.

The board approved new rules and regulations for commercial accounts, mirroring policies of the city of Crossville sewer system.

"We've been providing maintenance services to RCI," said Ferguson. "That's not proper. Even the POA, we're taking care of their maintenance on the cabins. If something happens, we bear the brunt of the expense."

Ferguson proposed the district take care of maintenance for residential customers with responsibility from the grinder pump to the sewer line in the road, except in cases of intentional misuse. For commercial accounts, Ferguson proposed those customers bear responsibility for maintenance of the grinder pump and the line to the business. The district would provide qualified maintenance personnel to perform the work, but the commercial customer would bear the cost.

"If their pump goes out, they have to pay to buy it, install it and maintain it," Ferguson said.

Heath questioned if the district could change existing agreements with RCI and the POA. Ferguson said there was no contract in place, but that the district had been absorbing those costs. It was noted RCI was reimbursing the district for work on their pump.

Ferguson moved to approve the changes, supported by Kerley and unanimously approved.

Heath said the district would need to make sure the changes were reflected in the district's rules and regulations and rate structure.