A contingent of Catoosa County representatives — including Commissioner Mark Fletcher, county attorney Clifton “Skip” Patty, sewer department head Kenneth Friel and planning and zoning administrator Ron Brown — made an appearance before Ringgold City Council Jan. 14 to ask Ringgold to honor commitments the county made to Stapp Drive residents relating to the addition of sewer in Poplar Springs subdivision.
“We ask you to honor our agreements,” said county attorney Clifton “Skip” Patty.
In July of last year, county officials became aware of a serious septic problem in the area when raw sewage was discovered running down Stapp Drive. While reviewing the problem, planning and zoning administrator Ron Brown also discovered a more serious problem of sewage running into a storm drain and then into an area creek.
After securing a low-interest emergency loan from the state to correct the problem, Catoosa County Publics Works Authority bid out the estimated $200,000 project which is now under construction to serve some 27 homes. Installation requires the sewer line to be connected to an existing Ringgold line.
“Upon completion, it will be turned over to Ringgold free of charge,” Patty said.
Tap-on fee confusion
According to Patty, the county had promised area residents who provided an easement for construction a tap-on at no charge. Other residents were told that to tap-on to the line would cost $385, or what the county charges.
“We later realized we were giving away a tap-on fee that we had not discussed with Ringgold,” Patty said.
The county previously agreed that Ringgold would receive tap-on fees from the project. Ringgold currently charges $455 as a tap-on fee — considerably more than the $385 charged by the county.
“We were primarily to use the tap-on fees to offset expenses at our sewer plant,” said Councilman Bill McMillon.
Ringgold was expecting to reap around $12,000 in tap-on fees.
Initially following an executive session, Ringgold council members thought the easement request would amount to only six or seven properties. Members were preparing to vote on whether to grant the county’s request until sewer department head Kenneth Friel estimated there would be 16 easement properties involved.
“That would be 16 that we would be throwing away,” Barger said. “We said we would try to work with you (the county) from day one.”
Commissioner Fletcher stressed to the Council that it is the county putting in the $200,000 sewer.
“This is more or less a community effort that we are reaching out to assist with for the long run,” Brown said.
However, Mayor Barger reminded county officials that Ringgold is already contributing.
“For every dollar you spend, 15 cents is our money,” Barger said. “Our residents are already participating by $30,000.”
Following another recess to collect additional information, Ringgold suggested a compromise.
Council approved unanimously a motion made by Councilman J.B. Petty to honor the county’s agreements for 17 easement tap-ons at no charge. Remaining properties would pay the Ringgold fee of $455 if they tap-on now, or a possible higher fee if they wait and Ringgold rates increase.
“I think we are going forward,” Petty said. “Nobody is going to hurt really bad. I think everybody can live with it.”
Councilman Larry Black seconded.
Dorsey Swafford, a Stapp Drive resident since 1969, feels the sewer construction is a positive thing for the neighborhood, but does not like the tap-on fee.
“I’ve spent thousands of dollars to get my system where you do not smell the septic,” Swafford said. “Even though I have no problem with mine, there is still sewage running in the streets.”
Swafford said that thus far no one with the county had discussed tap-on fees with him, but he expects construction to reach his home within a couple of months.
“I would prefer not to have a tap-on fee,” he said. “I do not believe $455 is a fair fee.”
The compromise will likely be considered by Catoosa County Public Works Authority in their next meeting Jan. 22 at 5 p.m. in the conference room of Catoosa County Courthouse.
If approved by the county, the agreement will result in Ringgold receiving around $4,500 in tap-on fees