WWTA sues East Ridge

WWTA sues East Ridge

July 2nd, 2012 by Kate Harrison Belz in Local Regional News

East Ridge City Manager Tim Gobble Tim Gobble and WWTA attorney Chris Clem

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Hamilton County's water authority has sued the city of East Ridge, claiming the city has breached its contract with the utility by enforcing a new series of fees.

As of this month, East Ridge has begun imposing a $200 fee every time the Hamilton County Water and Wastewater Authority cuts into city roads to repair sewer lines.

Before this year, East Ridge had never imposed the fee. Nor had any other municipality served by the WWTA - including Red Bank, Signal Mountain and Soddy-Daisy.

The WWTA lawsuit claims the fees violate the original interlocal agreement the two parties signed in 2001, which signed East Ridge's sewer operations over to the WWTA.

The contract granted the WWTA "all property interests of the city, including sewer easements, and rights of access and use in all city rights-of-way as may be necessary for the purposes herein."

At the time the contract was written, East Ridge City Attorney John Anderson was the attorney for the WWTA.

The WWTA is currently facing mandates from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation which it claims will require it to make 5,000 street cut fees in upcoming years.

That could amount to up to a $2 million burden WWTA attorney Chris Clem has claimed would have to be passed on to other county customers.

After the WWTA learned of the fees, they entered discussions about the possibility of a specially assessed rate increase in East Ridge to help pay for street fees. At that point, East Ridge councilmen considered forming their own sewer authority, but later voted down the proposal.

Though the WWTA repairs the section of roads it cuts into, City Manager Tim Gobble has argued that the upcoming street cut fees will cause permanent damage to the roads, and that the fee is necessary to recoup from damages.

The suit requests damages equal to each $200 fee that has been paid, along with an injunction to stop the fees from being levied and a judgment that finds that the street cut fees are in violation of the two parties' agreement.

For more information, read Tuesday's Times Free Press.

Contact staff writer Kate Harrison at kharrison@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6673.