Manchester City officials have made a proposal to Coffee County officials regarding the North Coffee area sewer project, which would require the two entities to work together.
Discussions of expanding the city’s sewer system into the North Coffee area near I-24’s exit 105 started last year, when talks about renovating North Coffee Elementary School began.
Initially, discussions centered on extending the city’s sewer lines to the school and providing enough additional capacity to serve two 50-room hotels and two convenience stores.
However, Manchester City has changed the direction of the discussions.
The city has expressed interest in residential development of the area as well, and has required all residents and businesses that request sewer service in that area to annex into the city.
The city and the county have created a joint sewer committee to discuss the project, with three members representing each entity.
County Commissioners Margaret Cunningham, Ashley Kraft and Joey Hobbs represent the county, and Manchester City Aldermen Ryan French, Bob Bellamy and Mark Messick represent the city.
Last Tuesday, March 5, the Manchester representatives on the committee sent a proposal for discussion to the Coffee County Budget and Finance Committee.
“I am supposed to put this on the table,” said Coffee County Mayor Gary Cordell. “You don’t have to review it per se tonight. I just want you to review it, just to let you know what the discussion has been between Manchester and the county. This is something Manchester has put on the table – the three aldermen were in favor of that.”
Manchester City will agree to participate in the Exit 105 Sewer and water expansion project, but will ask all residents and businesses requesting sewer service to annex into the city.
As already offered by the county, the city would like for the county to use its rural infrastructure fund and a grant to install a sewer line to North Coffee Elementary School.
The grant would cover 25 percent of the $1.3-million cost for the expansion of the sewer lines to the school; however, though the Coffee County Commission approved the USDA grant application last year, the application has not been filed, according to Cordell.
Manchester will not require current residents to annex as part of this project, unless they request to be annexed via hooking onto the sewer service. According to the proposal, only new connections to the sewer line will require the serviced property to be annexed into City of Manchester.
With the exception of the funds needed for the school sewer lines, Manchester City will agree to pay back the Coffee County rural infrastructure fund in its entirety at zero percent interest. To pay the county, Manchester will use subsequent local sales tax revenue generated as a result of any businesses that tie into the sewer line.
As part of the agreement, the city will require the county to open the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB).
If the Coffee County government does not allow for opening of the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB), the payback mechanism will be terminated, according to Manchester’s proposal.
The City of Manchester will agree to take on the full cost of depreciation of the project.
UGB is an area set aside for urban growth. Changing the boundaries would require the county to agree. The cities of Manchester and Tullahoma have a small portion of the UGB, but the majority of it is owned by the county.
“Opening the UGB is a-whole-nother topic, and it has far-reaching consequences,” said County Commissioner Bobby Bryan. “It’s a significant thing to reconstitute a coordinating committee and reopen discussion. You will be reopening totally the countywide growth plan, and it would lead to other tangent situation besides what we are talking about here.”
The sewer project agreement “in no way should be utilizing opening the UGB.”
“I don’t think this project would require that anyway,” Bryan said.
The countywide plan was completed years ago because Public Chapter 1101 required a comprehensive growth policy plan in each county to outline anticipated development areas for a 20-year period. The deadline for completing and approving all plans was July 1, 2001.
The plan identifies three distinct types of areas: UGB regions, which contain the corporate limits of a municipality and the adjoining territory where growth is expected; planned growth areas (PGA), compact sections outside incorporated municipalities where growth is expected and where new incorporations may occur; and rural areas (RA), territory not within one of the other two categories which is to be preserved for agriculture and recreation.
Commissioner Ashley Kraft, who represents the county on the sewer committee, asked other county officials for their opinion about opening the UGB.
“Part of the proposal is reopening the UGB,” Kraft said. “That’s a big decision.”
Commissioner Lynn Sebourn, who also serves on several Tullahoma City boards, said he would ask Tullahoma officials for input, as well.
“I would think Tullahoma would have an interest in opening that discussion, but I have not talked to the mayor or the city administrator or the planning commission about that,” Sebourn said. “I know, from our point of view, there are some areas we would like to be able to expand [in Tullahoma]. We would like to see business grow and it might to be handy to have that flexibility. I will go back and talk with some folks.”
A city or county can propose amendments to the plan by filing notice with the county mayor and the mayor of both cities, Tullahoma and Manchester.
Upon receipt of the notice, the county mayor must take action to reconvene or reestablish the coordinating committee within 60 days of the receipt of the notice. The coordinating committee is then re-established and uses the original process to amend the growth plan.
The burden of proving the reasonableness or necessity of the amendment is upon the party proposing the change.
The membership of the coordinating committee includes the county mayor, the mayors of the two cities, one member appointed by the governing board of the largest municipally owned utility, one member appointed by the governing board of the largest non-municipally owned utility, one member appointed by the board of directors of the county’s soil conservation district, one member appointed by the board of the local education agency having the largest student enrollment, one member appointed by the largest chamber of commerce and two members appointed by the county mayor to represent environmental, construction, and homeowner interests.
Elena Cawley can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.