Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

March 9, 2011

TSUD studying flat-fee rate structure

By Heather Mullinix
Assistant editor

CROSSVILLE — The Tansi Sewer Utility District Board of Commissioners first regular meeting since November included re-election of board officers and discussion of possible changes to the rate structure and rules and regulations.

Mike Dalton, vice president of the board, presented a proposed flat-fee rate structure that would set the monthly fee for sewer service at $60 and would spread the cost of hooking up to the system over 10 years. Those choosing not to hook up to the system could spread their availability payments over five years.

"I don't even know if this is feasible," Dalton told the crowd assembled and the other board members. "The bond people would have to look at it for acceptance and determine if it fundable. It is also contingent on the EPA grant."

The county has $950,000 available from a special appropriation from the Environmental Protection Agency. That grant does require a 45 percent match.

Dalton said his proposal was based on extending sewer service at this time to three neighborhoods where sewer service had garnered support, measured by a survey the district conducted last fall. Those are the Pueblo, Chippewa and Navajo subdivisions.

Herb Pallatt, president of the board, said board members had been talking with people in the community to garner feedback and information.

"These items are going to be put into our deliberations today and carry it forward to another date," he said. "One of the considerations I heard from the community was a flat fee versus a fee based on water use."

Dalton said the proposal was primarily based on the fact South Cumberland Utility District had decided not to share water meter readings with the sewer district.

"That limits our ability to get that information," Dalton said.

Dalton proposed a $60 flat fee for monthly service. The availability fee remains $1,500 and those connecting to the sewer would face a total charge of $5,950, which Dalton proposed spreading over 10 years.

"This is all based on the ability to get bond money and the EPA grant," he said. "I anticipated borrowing enough bond money to do the match for the EPA grant and to allow us to do some better financing than previously offered in our rate structure."

Dalton proposed having the engineers and bonding company look at the funding scenario. If it is considered a viable option, he then proposed getting firm commitments on sewer service in those subdivisions before moving forward.

Pallatt said if the district were to lower rates, those currently on the system could see a retroactive reduction, as well.

Though not on the agenda, it was noted that, as this was the first meeting of the new year for the board, state law required an election of board officers. The three agreed to continue in the roles they have held for the past year with Pallat as president, Dalton as vice president and Jim Heath as secretary.

The board of commissioners had not met since a work session Dec. 7. The previous regular meeting had been held Nov. 4. Since that time, former general manager Duke Coyne has resigned, resulting in a heavier work load for the districts remaining two part time employees.

Office manager Krista Johnson has been working 30 hours a week at $9 an hour. The board approved a $2 per hour increase in pay for her and approved the title of business manager.

Also approved was a new contract with Darian Dykes. He works part-time and provides daily checks on the treatment plant and prepares reports required by the state. With the bad weather this winter and Coyne's departure, he has seen and increased work load at the plant.

In other business, the board recommended a policy be drafted that requires notice of nonpayment of fees and board approval prior to any liens being placed by the district.

Financial reports were approved for the past four months, which showed a preliminary profit of $1,300 a month, but those reports do not reflect property depreciation. The district's fiscal year ended Feb. 28 and the yearly financial report will be audited.

The district has a contract with the Hiawatha Manor Association and Hiawatha Manor West Association to provide sewer service. Those contracts, however, refer to Tansi Waste Management Inc.

Dalton recommended the agreements be reissued with TSUD named the provider. The agreements are for one year.

Pallatt said, "There is no fee adjustment and it would be a one year extension."

The wastewater treatment plant's NPDES permit expires Oct. 31, 2011. Paperwork to seek a renewal of the permit needs to be submitted to the state in April. The board approved beginning the process.

The board also approved a 25-cent charge for making copies of public records if more than three pages are requested. A policy will be drafted and added to the district's operations manual.

The board approved moving forward with a sewer connection on Shoshone Loop. The property is the first residence on the road, but engineer Chuck Burgess with Environmental and Civil Engineering Services recommended the district seek a permit for a sewer line from the Lake Tansi Property Owners Association office to Dunbar Rd. be sought and that a contract be drawn up with a construction firm on a per-foot basis rather than for just the one project to allow for less delay on small projects in the future.

By state law, the commissioners are only required to meet once each quarter. Pallatt said the district's next meeting could be called within the next three months, or a special-called meeting could be announced within the next few weeks.