Water tap, brush collection takes large portion of City Council meeting

Published 5:39 pm Friday, December 10, 2021

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR STAFF
The Elizabethton City Council will revisit two ordinances after hearing complaints from a resident about the laws.
David Bass, who recently purchased a home and a business structure, questioned the city’s ordinances relating to water hook-up fees and collecting trash and yard debris from commercial businesses during the council’s public comments section of Thursday’s meeting.
Bass told council members he was told he had to pay a $650 tap, or hookup, fee to connect to city water after he purchased a home which had been in foreclosure. At issue was the former owner, who apparently had attempted to steal water.
“Why should I have to pay this,” said Bass, who said he talked with both Water Resource Director Jonathan Pleasant and City Manager Daniel Estes about the issue.
“The cost should go back to the previous customer or the unauthorized user,” Bass said. “I shouldn’t have to pay his bill.”
“Whoever built that house or put that line in paid for that water meter and paid for that tap so if they were stealing water or whatever, it is our responsibility to collect the payment for that,” said Curt Alexander, city mayor. “But whenever they move out, that tap should be back in the ground because it was already paid for by that house or that resident or builder.”
The council decided to waive the fee for Bass and to review and change the ordinance to ensure it clearly outlines responsibility for fees moving forward.
“In the ordinance what the council ultimately has to decide is if we have this situation in the future and you want to charge a tap fee to re-establish service, who is it going to be charged to,” said City Attorney Roger Day. “Are you going to charge the new owner, are you going to try and put a lien on the property because of it — who are you going to charge?”
Bass also questioned city ordinances regarding the collection of brush debris from commercial locations.
“I got a restaurant that I just purchased up here at Lone Star and I have someone interested in leasing it,” Bass said. “I cut the brush off and pulled it out to the road and the city does not want to pick up at commercial businesses. The ordinance that the city has now (says) that you can’t burn it. The landfill will only accept it at certain times. And it puts us in a predicament. So I was wondering what the intent of that ordinance was.”
Alexander said that intent is at issue.
“Our intent when we wrote this ordinance was not separating residential and commercial properties,” said Alexander. “Our intent was making sure that landscape contractors that do this type of work for a living don’t get hired to cut trees and shrubs and set the clippings at the road for the city to dispose of. That was the intent.”
All council members agreed that both ordinances needed to be reviewed during a workshop and rewritten if necessary.
In other business approved by the council:
  • Approved a budget ordinance amendment for the general fund regarding the COVID-19 Emergency Supplement Grant. The grant was awarded to allow the purchase of additional personal protective equipment in the form of gloves, masks, sanitizers, and cleaners. The grant will also reimburse the City for the overtime costs associated with maintaining acceptable staffing levels should officers be out for COVID-related issues.
  • Approved an ordinance to amend the water/sewer fund for the purchase of the Summers-Taylor property on West Elk Avenue to be used as the new Elizabethton Water Resources Construction Complex. The total price of the property and necessary associated costs is $1.949 million. These funds will be taken from the Water Resources fund balance.
  • Heard the first reading to amend the water/sewer fund for the purchase of a Kenworth tandem axle dump truck. Quotes for the tandem truck came in at $144,037.00, causing the need for a $24,037 amendment to the originally approved amount of $120,000.
  • Approved a resolution to approve accepting the Public Entity Partners James L. Richardson Driver Safety Matching Grant in the amount of $2,500 with the matching portion to come from funds budgeted for our partnership with JTS Safety and authorize the mayor to sign any and all documents.
  • Authorized the acceptance of the 2021 ARPA matching grant for the Elizabethton-Carter County Public Library in the amount of $10,507.
  • Ratified the mayor’s signature in order to ensure the Downtown Improvement Grant to ensure it moves forward efficiently as it is launched over the next several months. The City of Elizabethton is one of 14 municipalities across the state that will receive the DIG grant this year. The total grant award is $150,000. The council also took action on and consideration of City of Elizabethton 2021/2022 Budget Ordinance Amendment No. 11 for the General Fund on First Reading in regard to the grant.
  • Approved a resolution to consider and support the submission of a TDOT Urban Transportation Planning Grant Application. The staff intends to make an application for this planning grant for the purpose of studying the downtown area in regard to vehicular, bicycle, and pedestrian safety. For communities such as Elizabethton, grants may be awarded up to a maximum of $200,000 with a 10% required match.
  • Approved an amendment to the Honeywell AMI Contract — with a price increase from $3,982,422.00 to $4,091,242.14. Due to the global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the cost of shipping and the materials used to manufacture AMI meters have increased drastically. Honeywell cannot continue to absorb these increases and will be adding a 12% increase to the outstanding orders. This will result in an increase of $108,820.14 to the original cost of the project.
  • Approved an increase to expenditures for the TDOT TAP Grant for repairs to the Covered Bridge by $127,400 to come from the Fund Balance.
  • Approved a resolution to consider In Lieu of taxes from the Elizabethton Electric Department. The current amount of taxes due has been approved by TVA in November 2021. The amount due to the City for Fiscal Year 2022 is $1,285,247.93.
  • Approved a resolution allowing the city’s participation in an opioid drug manufacturers lawsuit settlement — Janssen Settlement. As part of the settlement negotiations, the City received notice that local governments in the state have the opportunity to join as sub-recipients of settlement funds. The full settlement amount is unknown and, therefore, do not know how much the City would receive as a sub-recipient of Tennessee. The funds will be restricted to be spent on items that mitigate the impact of the opioid crisis. This is different from the Baby Doe lawsuit.
Prior to the beginning of the business session,  Alexander and Estes recognized retiring city employee Sharon Banner-Droke who will be retiring at the end of December after over 42 years of service to the city.
The next meeting will be at 6 p.m. Jan. 13, 2022, in the City Council Chambers at Elizabethton City Hall.