Daphne Kirksey of Tennessee American Water responded on Monday to The Dade Planet’s article of Jan. 5, which quoted Dade County Executive Chairman Ted Rumley as saying her company wished to purchase the Lookout Creek acreage Dade has optioned in conjunction with the Dade Water Authority and the City of Trenton for its controversial reservoir project.
“They made a counteroffer when they found out we were interested in it,” Rumley told The Planet after Thursday’s January meeting of the county commission.
Photo: Ted Rumley, on the occasion of his most recent reelection as county boss (2016).
That’s not true, said Ms. Kirksey. “That’s the first we have ever heard about that piece of property,” she said by telephone Monday.
Dade has paid $50,000 to option a $500,000 tract of 60 or so acres off Sells Lane owned by Jack Sells for the ultimate—and much debated—purpose of building a dam and drinking water reservoir there. Under questioning from members of the public about the county’s ambitious plan, which seemed to have emerged fully-formed at the June 2017 commission meeting, Rumley at last week’s meeting said the county had better get the land while the getting was good—another water authority was after it, he said.
Questioned after the meeting, Rumley identified the mystery bidder as Tennessee American Water. He pointed out that the investor-owned, for-profit company, which supplies Chattanooga and some northwestern Georgia communities with water, had once in fact offered to take over the Dade Water Authority itself. Rumley’s assertion to that effect was substantiated by a mention in the minutes of a 2014 meeting of the water authority’s board of directors of a Tennessee American representative attending “ to discuss her company’s interest in purchasing the Authority.”
Rumley’s claim that Tennessee American had also offered to buy the Sells Lane property now being denied by Tennessee American, The Planet next tracked down Jack Sells, owner of the plot in question. Had he in fact, asked The Planet, received an offer on the creek land from Tennessee American?
Sells did not wish to comment on that beyond saying he had received several offers on the parcel.
So, asked The Planet, Ted Rumley says Tennessee American Water offered to buy the land and Tennessee American says it did not; is Ted Rumley fibbing?
“No, he is not,” said Sells. “He knows I’ve had some offers.”
He declined to comment further.
As for any residual ambition of Tennessee American Water’s to purchase the Dade Water Authority, Ms. Kirksey said her company maintains a relationship with neighboring water companies, including Dade’s, for mutual help when necessary, but that any decision to have the company take over the authority would have to come from the Dade community itself.