SUD Elects Officers
Thursday, February 28, 2019
by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer
At the Feb. 26 meeting the Sewanee Utility District Board of Commissioners elected officers for the coming year. The board also voted to pay an optional activity fee to the Tennessee Association of Utility Districts (TAUD) earmarked for support of lobbying activity.
All 2018 SUD officers were reelected, with Charlie Smith continuing as president, Randall Henley as vice president and Art Hanson as secretary.
Questioning whether paying the TAUD fee earmarked for lobbying was lawful, SUD manager Ben Beavers consulted Don Scholes, SUD’s attorney and attorney for TAUD.
Scholes cited a Tennessee Attorney General opinion which concluded “the payment of taxpayer funds by the city to a municipal league which used a portion of those funds for lobbying was the expenditure of funds for a valid municipal purpose.” The opinion defined a valid municipal purpose as “anything which promotes the public health, safety, morals, general welfare, security, prosperity, and contentment of the residents within the municipal corporation.”
Smith pointed out that more than 3,000 bills were introduced into the legislature each session. “Someone needs to look at those bills on our behalf. If something unfavorable slipped through, it could be a nightmare.”
Funds earmarked for health care insurance in the commissioners’ planning and governance budget will be used to pay the $700 fee. No commissioners opted to enroll in SUD’s health care plan for 2019.
In another issue with legislative ramifications, the board reviewed information on the commissioner election practices of other utility districts. SUD is only one of eight districts which elects commissioners and only one of two with term limits. Commissioner selection rules were set by the government act establishing the utilities and would require a government act to be changed.
Customers’ unwillingness to serve as commissioners prompted the board to investigate changing the rules.
“The issue isn’t the term limit, but how quickly we can put someone back on the board without them sitting out,” said Smith. At the present, a commissioner who has served two four-year terms must sit out for a full four-year term before serving again. “We’re at the mercy of the county mayor if we can’t fill a commissioner seat. The mayor might appoint someone from Estill Springs who doesn’t even live in the district.”
Beavers will inquire about the legal options at an upcoming TAUD meeting.
Updating the board on the waterline replacement project, Beavers said the line was completed and passed all bacteriological tests, all customers had been tied into the new line, and the old line had been cut off.
“There’s still some brush and concrete that needs hauled off, straw bales and silk fencing needed in areas that have washed, and some pea gravel sidewalks, asphalt and concrete work left to do.”
“The project came in well under budget,” Beavers reported. SUD completed the waterline replacement without borrowing money by drawing on cash reserves. Replacing the old leak-prone line has reduced water loss by 20,000-25,000 gallons per day.
Beavers called the board’s attention to a Midway customer’s request for two water taps on his property. The customer claimed his father and a previous landowner paid for the taps in 1975 when the line was put in. The customer has no receipt or documentation.
SUD records from that period show no pre-selling of taps and no record of how many taps were paid for. Beavers acknowledged record keeping was lax then.
“If we approved him we would need to approve others without documentation,” Henley said.
Beavers noted the customer could save money by servicing two residences from one tap, a practice in compliance with SUD regulations as long as the customer owned both residences.