Dade County, Trenton commissioners approve water authority changes

Dade County Executive Ted Rumley works in his office in Trenton on Dec. 13, 2018. Rumley talked about the county's environmental concerns about logging on the side of Lookout Mountain.

The Dade County and Trenton City commissions unanimously voted to change the structure of the local water and sewer authority Thursday night, county clerk Don Townsend said.

The proposed change will remove County Executive Ted Rumley from the authority board. Rumley, who runs the day-to-day operations of the county, now serves as the board's chairman, calling meetings and breaking ties among the board's other four members.

Some board members called for Rumley's removal after they voted to spend $400,000 on property in the county, which they hope to one day turn into a reservoir. Though they said the move was not a personal attack on Rumley, board members Eddie Cantrell and H.A. McKaig previously were critical of Rumley for initially telling the authority the county could use Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds to buy the land. (County Attorney Robin Rogers later told Rumley that he didn't think the county could use that sales tax money on the land buy.)

Cantrell also said he felt Rumley and the rest of the county commission put the authority in a bad position. The commission voted in June 2017 to put $50,000 down on a purchase of the property while the county, the city and the authority negotiated a final purchase. Cantrell thought the three entities would split the purchase price three ways, but the city commission never voted to join the deal. The commissioners later asked the authority to spend $400,000 of the total $500,000 purchase.

Because the county already put money down, Cantrell said he felt some pressure to pay the rest. At the same time, he and McKaig said they also wanted the land because they believe the county eventually needs a reservoir, which would provide plenty of water for any potential manufacturers moving into town. (Rumley, for his part, said the authority should handle the bulk of the purchase since it oversees the county's water supply.)

Under the new setup, the four county commissioners would still appoint a member to the authority board. But the fifth member - the spot now held by Rumley - will go to the city commissioners, who will vote on an appointment. The board members would then choose among themselves who will be the chairman.

Also, the agreement allows the board members to set their own salaries and establish their own rules of governing.

The proposal will go to state Rep. Colton Moore, R-Trenton, and state Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga. They will need to push the proposal through a local act in the General Assembly to put it into effect.

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.