July 23, 2014 - 19:38
Sewage stink aired
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A dispute over sewer bills has caused tension in Copperhill and McCaysville.

By Emily Dilbeck

A dispute over sewer bills has caused tension in Copperhill and McCaysville. Thursday night the Copperhill City Council held a special called meeting to address the issue.

Copperhill and McCaysville have a reciprocal agreement concerning sewer and water: McCaysville provides water to both cities, while Copperhill provides sewer treatment.

The dispute arose when an article and editorial in a September edition of Fannin County’s News Observer both stated the City of Copperhill had been able to balance its budget by charging a facility fee of $3,833 to McCaysville, a fee McCaysville officials said they were not aware of.

The facility fee was calculated as a combination of depreciation of $33,897, insurance on the sewer building and for employees of $5,349, and fees related to audits and accounting totaling $6,750. Copperhill City Recorder Sandi Collins said she had divided the total of these 3 by 12 so McCaysville could be charged monthly, thus the $3,833 addition.

Collins said she had not slipped this fee “under the rug,” because it had been added to McCaysville sewer bill 10 months ago. She went on to say the month of October was the 1st time McCaysville had subtracted the $3,833 from its bill.

In the sewer contract between the two cities, McCaysville agreed to pay 73% of costs, Intertrade Holdings (Copperhill Industries) 17%, and Copperhill 10%. Collins said the company had not paid its portion for several years, so only the two cities were making payments. She also said Copperhill itself had 248 sewer customers and  McCaysville accounted for 95% of usage. City Employee Jerry Gilliam added that West Fannin High School, Fannin Hopsital, and several housing projects are included in McCaysville’s portion of sewage plant usage.  

Collins said to her knowledge the facility fee charge had been discussed with McCaysville officials at least 3 times last year. McCaysville officials were supposed to contact Copperhill, but Collins said the City never heard anything back.

Several Copperhill citizens present at the meeting asked whether or not the City had any options to stop McCaysville from deducting the $3,883 from its sewer bill and charging the same amount to Copperhill’s water bill. Collins said there was nothing she could do about that, but making payroll had become very difficult for the City and they didn’t have many options, and that without the facility fee the Wastewater Treatment Plant could not operate.

The Council then discussed plans to provide their own water, as Jerry Gilliam said “in order to be more independent.” He said the current plan was drill a well close to the reservoir and use ground water. Gilliam estimates that for $30,000, two wells, two pumps, and two buildings could be built, but that only one might be necessary. He has already been in touch with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) and is looking into grants.

The City also approved a motion to lease the Old Police building to Dr. Richard Tanner, who plans to build an office within the year. Dr. Tanner explained he will renovate and upgrade the building at his own cost. Councilwoman Kathy Stewart told all present, “the addition of Dr. Tanner will be good for us and good for the community.”

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