Proposed city-owned utility district remains focus of debate among Samburg officials

Proposed city-owned utility district remains focus of debate among Samburg officials

By KEVIN BOWDEN
Staff Reporter
For the past several months, Samburg officials have been trying to come up with a plan to establish a city-owned utility district.
The Samburg mayor and board of aldermen spent a majority of its meeting Monday night debating the issue and after becoming frustrated over the lack of a solution, they decided to schedule a called meeting for 7 p.m. Monday to resume the discussion.
The controversial issue took up nearly 45 minutes of the board’s hour-long meeting.
At the heart of the matter is a deteriorating relationship between the city and the Reelfoot Lake Regional Utility & Planning District. The friction is due to high utility bills and the utility board’s unwillingness to help pay for street repairs around town.
The notion of starting a city-owned utility district in Samburg has been an issue ever since the city was presented an engineering study nearly five months ago. In the study by L.I. Smith & Associates of Paris, the deteriorating condition of 16 of Samburg’s streets is documented and one of the contributing factors is identified as “settlement over the existing sewer lines.”
All the streets identified in the engineering report are located on the north side of town.
“There are several areas that have varying degrees of failure within the street network. Some of the contributing factors of the failures include heavy loaded vehicles, settlement over the existing sewer lines and poor surface drainage,” the report states.
Samburg officials have approached the utility board about helping to pay for street repairs, but the utility board has agreed to only help pay for work around manhole covers in town, according to board member Shelly Arnett.
She and fellow board member Eddie Fickle have been the most actively involved city officials working on the project and he has been urging the board to move forward with applying for a state permit to start a utility district.
However, numerous questions and concerns from Mrs. Arnett and other board members have stalled Fickle’s plan.
One of the key issues that will have to be settled is who owns the sewer lines in the city.
“To me, the Town of Samburg owns the sewer lines under the city,” Fickle said.
He produced several documents to support his position. Fickle also claimed there are 188 easements at the Obion County Courthouse that have never been properly transferred, and without the easement transfers the utility board cannot claim ownership of the city’s sewer system.
“That’s never been done,” Fickle said. “Not one of them has been transferred over.”
For nearly 45 minutes, board members debated the controversial issue without being able to come up with a solution.
“This is going to get really, really nitpicky,’ Mrs. Arnett said.
Mayor Larry Gene Davis predicted it will be a drawn out and costly process to settle the matter.
“Before it’s all said and down, we’re going to end up in court,” he said.
“I don’t like the sewer rates. They’re too high. But I’m not sure this right here is going to solve our problems,” board member Joe Denton said.
At one point during the debate, Mrs. Arnett stated, “I’ve not received the first phone call complaining about the sewer rates.”
In fact, during discussions of the issue at recent board meetings, there has been no public outcry about the sewer rates.
However, the board will resume its discussion of the matter Monday night and will try to come up with a solution. Monday night’s called meeting is open to the public.
Also during Monday evening’s meeting, the board:
• Accepted a letter of resignation from board member Sharon Cunningham. The seven-member board is now down to five members, with the recent resignation of board member Johnnie Johnson. No action was taken on the two board vacancies.
• Approved a pair of administrative issues — a formal job description for the city recorder and a time sheet for the city’s public works employees.
• Approved a high bid of $650 for the city’s totaled police car. Samburg Police Chief James Hack submitted the bid.
• Was presented a preliminary budget outline by City Recorder Mary Swain.
Staff Reporter Kevin Bowden may be contacted by email at kmbowden@ucmessenger.com.

Published in The Messenger 5.7.13

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