Bean Blossom Sewer Project – Key Points

Updated Dec 19, 2019

Summary of Key Points:  Supporting details for these points are provided in the following post:  Regional Sewer Board – Bean Blossom Sewer Project – For the Record

Transfer of Parkland for a Sewer Plant  –  Request for Special Exception  

Dec 19, 2019. BCD. Vote taken on Bean Blossom sewer plant land By Sara Clifford. A sewer plant to serve Bean Blossom is now allowed to go on land at the base of Bean Blossom hill off State Road 135 North.

Parks and Rec still have to hold a public meeting and vote on a transfer. If this parcel was developed as parkland (biking, hiking, picnicking, etc.), the sewer plant takes up some prime space. Other options for sewer service include Bean Blossom and maybe Helmsburg (depending on study results).  But when the project manager and board member (Clint Studabaker) is already talking about the view from his office, on the number of employees needed and the BCRSD with the commissioner and council support has spent $200K on plans without acquiring land, the pressure is for “New.”

Dec 10, 2019. Email sent to Parks and Rec Board. 20191210 – Email Parks and Rec – Land Transfer requesting that any decision on a transfer and rezoning of land donated and deeded to Parks and Rec bepostponed until two ongoing studies have been completed.

Nov 26, 2019. Facebook Post on the topic asking the question: Should land deeded to Parks and Rec be used for a sewer plant if other land is available? 

TimelineParkland for Sewers.   Recent events  regarding the acquisition of land donated to Parks and Recreation:

Example Public Input Meeting – Park Master Plan – Johnson County 

    • July 30 — present?  A commissioner, a councilman and others (?) started putting pressure on some Parks and Rec board members regarding their decision to rescind their vote. 
  • Nov 5, 2019. The Brown County Regional Sewer District Board (BCRSD) had an executive session (closed meeting) with the Park and Rec Board to talk about land acquisition.  
  • Nov 12, 2019. BCRSD Board Meeting –  I asked for an update regarding current actions to acquire land from either a private owner or land deeded to Parks and Rec.  The board was vague on the response and did not rule out looking for private land.
    • Note: Land is available in Helmsburg for a new plant.
  • Nov 18, 2019. The BCRSD Board sent a follow-up letter to the Parks and Rec Board that identified their intent to acquire land deeded to Parks and Rec.
    • BCRSD Letter  to the Parks and Rec Board
    • Nov 20, 2019.  Parks and Rec Board Meeting.  The discussion on the topic of a land transfer was not identified on the meeting agenda.  The BCRSD Board members attended the meeting, requested and received a signed agreement that Parks and Rec might consider a transfer.
  • Nov 21, 2019. An executive session (closed meeting) has been scheduled between the BCRSD Board and the Parks and Rec Board.
  • Dec 3, 2019. BCD, Town OKs major study of sewer service By Sara Clifford
    • Includes considering providing service to Bean Blossom.
  • Future Meetings
    • Dec 10, 2019. BCRSD Board Meeting. (second Tuesday of the month).
    • Dec 12, 2019. BCRSD and Parks and Rec Board – “executive session”  to discuss “land acquisition”.
    • DEC 18, 2019.  BZA (special exception) Meeting – Agenda item for a special exception for a transfer – APPROVED.
      • My statement requesting a delay on the decision for a “Special Exception” 20191218 Special Exception Parkland – AAR
        • Three members of the BCRSD Board made a presentation on the alleged need and history of the project, two Park and Rec Board members spoke in support, Jerry Pittman representing the commissioners spoke in support.
      • Dec 18, 2019 – Parks and Rec Meeting – No quorum
      • Jan 31, 2019 — Regionalization Study  To be Complete -will help determine the best options and locations for a plant – Helmsburg, Bean Blossom, Other …

Summary of Key Points

A needed regionalization study was initiated in “August of 2019” (better late than never) – to help identify the best solutions for the region (area). It is due to be completed by mid to late January.  Responsible governmental oversight and due diligence should mandate that no further action be taken on the Bean Blossom project until this report has been completed, presented, studied, and reviewed by all of the pertinent parties involved to include Sewer boards, County Council and relevant property owners.

The land being considered for a wastewater plant was donated to Parks and Recreation – NOT the county where elected representatives can decide on best use.  Although perhaps legal, is the transfer honorable?  Does it violate the intent of the donation?  Would this decision send a clear message for individuals and groups to never donate land to the government?

The desire by the Brown County Regional Sewer District (BCRSD) board to acquire land at deeded to Parks and Recreation and conveying a false sense of urgency, appears to be an act of desperation. It may also be a face-saving measure for council members and commissioners that have supported the funding for this project without understanding the extent and scope of the problem.

  • Should John Kennard, a Health Department employee and member of the Parks and Rec Board, recuse himself from any vote on a transfer due to a conflict of interest? As a county employee, he was involved in establishing an RSD in Bean Blossom. He also made allegation at the Nov 20 meeting regarding the conditions of the Nashville Plant.
  • Mike Leggins, President of the BCRSD board misrepresented the intent of the Helmsburg RSD Board regarding a new or expanded plant.  Helmsburg’s application for the regionalization study grant identifies their interest regarding expansion.

Motivation.  The long-term motivation for sewer service in Bean Blossom has been supported by individuals with property in the area that can be developed and business interests. Business interests include the trailer park and Bill Monroe Music Park and Campground.  Commissioner Biddle who lives in the area to be served, also mentioned in a public meeting that her residential septic system was inadequate. The current Board President (2018/2019) has also acknowledged his business interest in obtaining sewer service for the area.  The current president of the current Redevelopment Commissions (RDC) has also expressed public support for this project and commercial development in the area.  The prior RDC Commission identified Helmsburg as a viable option.

Project – Re-start. The BCRSD – Bean Blossom Sewer Project was announced at a public meeting in “June 2018” at which time they announced they were submitting a preliminary Engineering Report (PER) to the state.  Early estimates were that the project would be approved within a year.  Their failure to acquire land due to lack of support by one or more property owners has resulted in delays.

Budget.  BCRSD received $270,000 from the county council in the fall of 2018 to help cover the cost of engineering reports and other project-related expenses. To my knowledge, AT NO TIME during the first year of the project did the BCRSD board identify to the Council in a public meeting that they were having trouble acquiring land.  The current budget balance as of Nov 8, 2019 is approximately $84,356.60.

  • Incurring a significant expense ($186, 643) by the BCRSD without first acquiring land should be of concern to county citizens.  The performance of the current BCRSD board should also be reviewed.

Monthly Costs of Service.  Due to the concern of Helmsburg RSD (HRSD) customers on their high monthly rate of  ($92.50) of service and the request by potential customers in the Lake Lemon area for sewer service from Helmsburg, the State-funded a grant to develop a regionalizations study.  The application for the study that included HRSD and BCRSD specific requirements, is intended to help identify the best wastewater treatment options for the region (area). This study is estimated to be completed by mid to late January of 2020.

  • Population density – the less population and customers, the higher the costs. On monthy fees, Helmsburg is at the high end ($92.50) and Gnaw Bone on the lower end – approximately $50.00.  The Forest Hills Apartment complex in Gnaw Bone added more customers and helped keep the costs down.  In Bean Blossom, what is the projected maintenance costs over time and what is the expected growth in the customer base?  What is the projection for the monthly charge for service?

History on Options Considered. Under the previous BCRSD Board President – Judy Swift Powdrill (2017/2018), the Board voted to continue negotiations with Nashville to obtain service. Nashville rescinded the offer. The BCRSD Board decision in 2017 -when  Evan Werling was President, was to reject the Nashville option due to the higher costs and annexation related requirements.  This BCRSD Board along with the support of the 2017 Redevelopment Commission (RDC) identified that expanding the Helmsburg plant may be the most cost-effective option. The current BCRSD Board requested service from Nashville and per the Town Council President, Nashville has not said no to the request.

    • The HRSD board identified the requirement that additional debt would not be passed on to current Helmsburg customers. This was the same requirement specified by the Gnaw Bone RSD when an expansion was required and approved to support the Forest Hills Apartment complex.  The developer assumed the additional costs of the expansion.

Existing Plans for Development. Helmsburg developed a county approved Economic Development Area (EDA and an Economic Plan.  Bean Blossom has neither.

Proven Need. Final approval of the Bean Blossom project by state and federal officials will require that the BCRSD validate a need. The past two BCRSD Board Presidents both stated publicly that there is no documented evidence of failed systems in the area . They both recommended validation of a need before proceeding with the project.  The current board appeares to be making a case based on the age of systems in the area to be served and inadequate records.

Eminent Domain. As was communicated to the Park and Rec Board, the BCRSD can evoke eminent domain to acquire land for a public good.  If an eminent domain action was challenged by a private property owner in court, the BCRSD may have to prove that there is a need. This may be difficult to establish to the satisfaction of the court.

Estimated useful Life. Speculation by the current BCRSD of a need is based on the estimated useful life of systems as an average of 25 years. This average can identify a range from 1 – 49 years.  At the Brown County Septic Summit in September, it was identified that the life of a system was “indefinite.”  Indefinite defined as: “not definite, unclear; vague, lacking precise limits.”

    • The are many variables that factor into an estimate of useful life. These include type, design, age, water usage, maintenance, and soil types to name a few. Note that the “indefinite” conclusion is supported by the EPA and Presby systems.
    • The Cordy Sweetwater Conservancy has the highest density of homes in the county that is served by septic systems.  Routine and recurring tests of water quality of the lakes identify no serious problems with water quality.

Water Quality.  County public officials have made allegations that failed systems are contributing to E-Coli in the creeks and streams. This is not proven.  The  State Department of Health identified that there are no approved processes at this time for sampling water and determining if there are human contaminants.  Any statement made contrary to this truth is “Fake News.”

“IF” it is determined that water from lakes and streams is being polluted by human contaminates, then additional research and analysis will be needed to determine the origin, extent, and scope of the problem.

More information:

Aug 27, 2019. Brown County Democrat. Guest Opinion: Septics and Sewers – major changes proposed By Tim J. Clark

Jan 22, 2019. Brown County Democrat. GUEST OPINION: Sewers and septic systems: What’s the problem? by Tim Clark

Jan 7. 2019.  FAQ Brown County Regional Sewer District (BCRSD) Board  – Response in January 2019 to questions that were asked at the June 2018 BCRSD Meeting.

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