Water Board Adds Public Trail, Rental Agreement to Reservoir Contract

December 21, 2018

The Dade Water Authority Board of Directors and employee, from head of table clockwise, Chairman Ted Rumley, manager Doug Anderton, members Dr. Billy Pullen and Henry Breedlove, office manager Elizabeth Zeller and assistant manager Sherri Walker, County Attorney Robin Rogers, members H.A. McKaig and Eddie Cantrell. Citizen petitioners are Gary Lindley (left) and John Paulson.


The board of directors of the Dade Water Authority, or so-called water board, today added a nature trail and a lease agreement to its list of requested contract amendments before it and the county commission finalize a deal to buy a 60-plus-acre parcel of pastureland on Lookout Creek for a proposed reservoir. 


The county commission and board had been criticized for making too sweet a deal with landowner Jack Sells for the controversial project: As the sales contract was originally written, not only will Sells receive $500,000 for the land, he will retain the use of it until such time as the county and water company commence construction of a reservoir. This, County Executive Chairman Ted Rumley explained on numerous occasions, and reiterated today, is in the interest of keeping the land cleared--allowing Sells to continue haying the field will keep it clear of trees and undergrowth that would otherwise grow up during the expected lengthy permitting phase and cost the county money to clear.


But at today's 8 a.m. water board meeting, County Attorney Robin Rogers presented a lease agreement that formalizes that arrangement with Sells. It leases the land back to him for $500 a year, stipulating that he is limited in his use of it to grazing cattle and cultivating hay. The lease agreement is for two years, and Rogers explained he had written it that way to cover Rumley's estimation of the permitting period. The lease is renewable for three more one-year periods by consent of both parties. 


The lease agreement also sets out insurance liabilities and obligations for the contract parties.


At the early-morning meeting, board member H.A. McKaig asked Rogers to add to the contract amendments a stipulation that the commission and board have the right to put a nature trail or public walking path on the property during the permitting period. Board member Eddie Cantrell agreed. "I think it's a great idea for the citizens to see it's our property and we can use it," said Cantrell.


Rogers suggested that Sells would be more likely to agree to such public access if the path is laid out close to the creek itself as opposed to willy-nilly through the pastures. "If I'm him, I'm going to object to peopling walking through my fields," he said. Board members expressed themselves amenable to the suggestion.


"I think it would be good if we could get some kind of use of the property," agreed Chairman Rumley, who also presides over the water board. But he added the stipulation that the path would not be paved or graveled for the time being. "It would have to be ground," he said. "It would like walking through the woods."


Rumley also added that the county will have to keep a better eye on the property to ward off the illegal tire dumping that he said is a huge problem all over the county. He speculated that the scrap tires are being hauled in from Chattanooga by unscrupulous contractors paid by dealers to get rid of them on the cheap. "It's the tire dump of America over there," he said.


The water board approved the lease agreement subject to the specified changes, and the amended sales contract with Sells is due to be signed by the end of this month. But McKaig pointed out that the county commission will have to approve it at its January meeting, and any additional concerns can be taken up then.


In other water board business, citizens Gary Lindley and John Paulson asked board members to look into running a better water line to a fire hydrant in their West Brow neighborhood that doesn't get enough water to put out any conceivable fire. "It's a useless hydrant," said Lindley. 


Departing Georgia House Rep. John Deffenbaugh, their neighbor, had made the same request some months earlier, and Lindley said the problem goes further back. "Doug [Anderton, the water company manager] and I have been dealing with this for almost 40 years," he said.


The West Brow neighbors affected have offered to help pay for a new water line. Manager Doug Anderton estimated the work will cost around $22,000. 


But Rumley said it will have to wait a bit longer, probably until spring. "It's not going to happen until the weather's better," he said.


Eddie Cantrell said the water company should look to see if the same problem--too meager a water line to supply fire hydrants--exists elsewhere in its service area, where ratepayers complain "not with the voice of John Deffenbaugh." 


In other business, Cantrell asked assistant water company manager Sherri Walker

about the recruitment process for replacing manager Anderton, who is retiring in June. Ms. Walker, herself a candidate for the job, said five or six applications had been received. The board will continue accepting applications until the end of January and discuss them at its February meeting.


Finally, board member Charles Breedlove gave notice that the board would have to start looking for his replacement after next year. "I'm getting to where I can't remember things as good as I used to," he said.


Rumley asked if he couldn't find a replacement himself. Breedlove replied he did have someone in mind who was a pretty good candidate except that he took an excessively long time to tell a story. [Editor's note: Which is a flaw that stopped neither Homer nor The Dade Planet.]  


The water board meets at 8 a.m. on the third Friday of the month in the Dade Administrative Building. The next meeting is Jan. 18.

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