Dade County commissioners call for Thursday vote to remove chair from water authority after controversial $500,000 purchase

Dade County commissioners call for Thursday vote to remove chair from water authority after controversial $500,000 purchase

January 22nd, 2019 by Tyler Jett in Breaking News

Staff photo by Tim Barber Dade County Executive Ted Rumley works in his office in Trenton Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018.

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

After a controversial land buy in December, commissioners in Dade County and the city of Trenton will vote Thursday on whether to boot County Executive Ted Rumley off the Water and Sewer Authority. The move would also give the city more power.

Under the proposed changes, the county executive will no longer serve as the chair of the authority. The four county commissioners will still each appoint one member to the board, but the Trenton City Commissioners would now be responsible for the fifth appointment.

The authority board members would then pick among themselves who to serve as chair and vice chair. The chair calls meetings and votes only to break ties among the other four members.

Current members of the authority called for Rumley to be removed after they voted to spend $400,000 on a land purchase. The county spent another $100,000 on the property, which they hope to one day turn into a reservoir.

Some members of the authority told the Times Free Press that residents were skeptical of the land deal simply because Rumley is present on both boards. (He did not have to vote on the authority's side of the purchase, as the other four members unanimously approved of the deal.) As county executive, Rumley controls the county's day-to-day operations, and some members of the authority believed the land deal looked tainted because Rumley is dogged by political enemies. 

While this controversy stirred up, Trenton City Mayor Alex Case lobbied for his local government to have a say on the authority, too. The city controls the sewer plant, and he believes the authority and the city leaders have not communicated well over the years. For example, the authority extended sewer lines in the south end of the county but did not share a map of the lines with the city.

Case argued the city needs a say with the authority because the sewer system depends on the city's plant. At the same time, he said, the city needs to know everything about the sewer system to properly keep the plant up to date.

The commissioners from both local governments will decide whether to send a draft of the changes to State Rep. Colton Moore, R-Lookout Mountain, and State Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga. The legislators would need to push the changes through both chambers of the capitol in a local act. 

Thursday's meeting will take place at 5 p.m. at the county administrative building, located at 71 Case Avenue.