City Takes Fight to Stop DUD Water Plant to Chancery Court in Davidson County

July 15, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page
Mayor and Aldermen
City Attorney Vester Parsley, Jr.

The City of Smithville is taking its fight to keep the DeKalb Utility District from building its own water treatment plant to Chancery Court in Davidson County.

Following the recommendation of city attorney Vester Parsley, Jr. the aldermen voted 4-0 Monday night to hire Nashville attorneys Bill Purcell and Jason Holleman to file an appeal of the State Utility Management Review Board's dismissal of a petition by a group of DUD ratepayers who were hoping to halt DUD plans to build the water plant.

After a hearing on Thursday, April 4 which lasted all day and into the night, the UMRB board found that the petitioners had failed to meet their burden of proof that DUD rates or services provided were unreasonable. The hearing was held in Smithville at the DeKalb County Complex auditorium.

"I do not believe that the petitioners presented a case for water rates," said one member of the UMRB board. "They presented a case for not wanting Smithville to lose DeKalb Utility District as a customer. What the petitioner proved was that Smithville didn't want to lose a customer, not that the rates were improper," he said.

During Monday night's meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, City Attorney Parsley said an appeal of the UMRB's ruling must be filed within sixty days of the filing of the order from that hearing and the deadline is August 5. "Earlier this year (April 4) we had a hearing before the (UMRB) board regarding the application that DUD had made to build a new water treatment plant here outside the city to treat water," said Parsley. " Of course we (city) would lose a substantial part of our income that we receive from DUD if they continue on that way. We had 60 days (from the date the order was filed from the hearing) to file an appeal. That 60 days will be up on August 5," said Parsley.

"I have been in communication with (Nashville attorneys) Bill Purcell and Jason Holleman who were involved with (representation at UMRB hearing) for the ratepayers of the City of Smithville and DUD customers. They need to know whether or not the board (aldermen) wants to make that appeal (to Chancery Court) because it has to be done within that deadline. If it isn't, they (DUD) can go forward (build the water plant) and that's the end of the case. The appeal process is very similar to what you see with the court of appeals. However, you're going to appeal to a Chancellor that is in Davidson County, not a local Chancellor," said Parsley. "The purpose of that appeal is to determine whether or not the (UMRB) board which came to Smithville and had the hearing made the right decision," he said.

"I have also been in communication with Mr. Purcell and Mr. Holleman regarding the cost of that appeal to the City of Smithville. They have offered to prepare an appeal for the hearing. There will be no new proof. No new depositions submitted. The fee is not to exceed $10,000. It is my recommendation to the board that we go forward with that but that's up to the board," said City Attorney Parsley. " As to the outcome of that, we'll have to wait and see how the Chancellor rules. But I think it would be good for us to go forward with that and hopefully we would get a more favorable decision from a Chancellor than we did the (UMRB) board," he said.

Alderman Tim Stribling made a motion to file the appeal. " Mr. Mayor, I'd like to see that this go before the Chancellor. I think it would be more unbiased. I think we all saw that day the deck was stacked against us so I'd like to make a motion that we appeal the decision of the board which allowed DUD to continue with building their own water treatment plant and I'd also like to make a motion that we retain Bill Purcell and Jason Holleman to represent the city with an understanding that they shall be paid a fee not to exceed $10,000," said Alderman Stribling.

Alderman Danny Washer offered a second to the motion. Alderman Jason Murphy and Shawn Jacobs joined Stribling and Washer in voting for it. Alderman Josh Miller was unable to attend the meeting.

In other business, the aldermen, following a public hearing, adopted on second and final reading an ordinance to change the regular meeting dates of city council meetings to once a month, on the first Monday at 6:00 p.m. at city hall. For many years, the meetings have been held twice a month on the first and third Monday nights at 7:00 p.m. at city hall.

If the first Monday should fall on a holiday, the aldermen will meet on the second Monday of that particular month at 6:00 p.m. at city hall. Special meetings may be called during the month as needed by the mayor or any two aldermen.

The regular city council meetings for the remainder of the year will be on Monday, August 5; September 9; October 7; November 4; and December 2 at 6:00 p.m. at city hall.

Meanwhile, the aldermen adopted a resolution authorizing the city to participate in the Tennessee Municipal League Risk Management Pool "Safety Partners" Loss Control Matching Grant Program.

If approved the 50% matching grant may be used to assist with the purchase of safety related equipment. such as high visibility traffic vests, rain gear, boots, gloves, safety cones, etc. for city employees.

TML is the city’s liability insurance carrier. "They do all of our workers comp, property, and liability," said Hunter Hendrixson, City Secretary-Treasurer. " Once a year they authorize a "Safety Partners" Loss Control Matching Grant. It's a 50% match. They haven't sent me how much we'll be eligible for but I think it'll be around the $2,000 mark," he said.

The resolution is as follows:

WHEREAS, the safety and well being of the employees of the City of Smithville is
of the greatest importance; and

WHEREAS, all efforts shall be made to provide a safe and hazard-free workplace for the City of Smithville employees; and

WHEREAS, the TML Risk Management Pool seeks to encourage the establishment of a safe workplace by offering a “Safety Partners” Loss Control Matching Grant Program; and

WHEREAS, the City of Smithville now seeks to participate in this important program.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF Smithville, TENNESSEE the following:

SECTION 1. That the City of Smithville is hereby authorized to submit application for a “Safety Partners” Loss Control Matching Grant through the TML Risk Management Pool.

SECTION 2. That the City of Smithville is further authorized to provide a matching sum to serve as a match for any monies provided by this grant.

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