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Resident addresses sewer grinder ordinance at Huntingdon’s town meeting.

Road resurfacing project approved, elections announced

ADDRESSING THE COUNCIL – Resident Marty Towater (left) shares his grievances about Ordinance 616 to the town Council, as Councilmembers Will Atkins and Andrew Maddox, along with Mayor Nina Smothers listens.

Huntingdon Council awarded two bids at their April 23 meeting, one of which addressed alleviating some road conditions throughout town. They also passed two ordinances, as well as a resolution to call municipal elections.

Before regular business was conducted, the Mayor and Council heard from three citizens about a number of concerns: Barbara Knuutila, Allison Williams, and Marty Towater.

Knuttila’s and Williams’s remarks dealt with the water situation, and are discussed in a separate article.

Towater Addressed the Council

Towater shared his concerns related to a recent bill he received from the Town of Huntingdon for the replacement of his sewer grinder pump that malfunctioned back in October, 2023.

The bill was dated “April 12, 2024” and was for $3,478.38. It had an itemized list of parts associated with the new sewer grinder the Town replaced.

He talked about issues he had getting someone from the water department out to his home to replace the pump.

Towater was also under the impression that the Town of Huntingdon picked up all the costs of the sewer grinder pump, as that was part of the agreement, he said, when his home was annexed by the town in 1997, and became within city limits.

Unbeknownst to him, Ordinance 616 passed its second reading in May 2023, and changed the way Huntingdon deals with its nearly 200 residents on sewer grinder pumps.

The ordinance states, “The town will provide maintenance of grinder pump units installed prior to June 2023 when needed, if this maintenance is created by normal wear and deterioration of the grinder pump unit. Property owner will be billed for the cost of parts for the maintenance of the unit.”

It goes on to mention, “Upon [sale] of the property with a grinder pump unit pre-existing to June 2023, the Town’s fiscal responsibility ends.”

“It looks like ultimately, you are going to get completely out of the sewer grinder business,” Towater said.

He mentioned that the ordinance stated a summary would be printed in the newspaper within ten days of the ordinance’s passing, and read excerpts from articles in the May 3 and May 31 editions of Carroll County News-Leader which mentioned Ordinance 616.

“There is no mention at all about sewer grinders,” Towater said. “Nowhere in the paper does it talk about homeowners being responsible for sewer grinder pumps and associated parts that are potentially thousands of dollars. I know it’s a summary, but that’s a pretty big gap of information that was not conveyed to the public.”

While he was referring to articles about the town council meetings in which the ordinance was voted on, the official summary found in the “Public Notices” section of the May 31 edition read as follows:

“Pursuant to Section 2.08(d) of the town’s charter, public notice is hereby given of the adoption of the following ordinances and resolutions: Ordinance No. 616, an ordinance to amend Title 18. Water & Sewers, Chapter 1, Water of the Huntingdon Municipal Code as it pertains to the provision of public water services and Title 18. Water & Sewers, Chapter 2, Wastewater Collection and Treatment Systems of the Huntingdon Municipal Code as it pertains to the provision of public sewer services.”

Towater said about the ordeal, “It feels like 26 years later, the city thinks ‘we don’t like the deal we made, so we’re going to change the rules and we’re changing the ordinances in our favor.’”

“I’m being penalized for the way the sewer lines run,” he finished.

Then Towater asked about the maintenance information, warranty information, and other literature regarding the pump. He also noted discrepancies in the bill in the amount of $800, which he said were addressed by Public Works Director Randy Crossett.

Attorney’s Response

Robert T. Keeton, III, Huntingdon’s Town Attorney assured Towater that he was entitled to the manuals, warranty, and other information for the grinder pump. He also explained that the Tennessee Association of Utility Districts (TAUD) recommended that all municipalities change their sewer grinder pump protocols for liability purposes. The TAUD is also the insurance provider for the town, so there was an obligation to adhere to the recommendation.

Keeton also mentioned that ordinances are discussed during at least two town meetings, and the summary published in the newspaper meets the minimum requirement set by law.

Towater reiterated that he felt the summary was inadequate and said that someone should have let him know about the change when they did the work.

Regular Business Agenda

*During regular business, the Council awarded a bid to Arrow Paving Co. for a street resurfacing project. According to City Recorder Kim Carter, the project will address a few of the most critical areas in town, including Browning Avenue, Tower Road, and Rollins Avenue.

*Another bid was awarded to Breathing Air Systems for $42,590.82 for the purchase of a breathing air compressor for the Fire Department.

The Council passed Resolution 024-05, to call the Municipal Elections of the Town of Huntingdon for November 5. This date coincides with the general elections held by the Carroll County Election Commission. On the Ballot for the Town of Huntingdon will be the Mayor’s seat and four Councilmember seats.

*Ordinance 625 passed on its second reading. The ordinance reduces setback requirements for corner lots in three residential districts: R-1; R-2; and F-R Districts.

In R-1, The minimum street-facing side yard width was reduced from 30 feet to 20 feet from the street right-of-way. In R-2, the minimum setback for street-facing side yard was reduced from 25 feet to 15 feet. In F-R districts, the minimum setbacks for street-facing sides were reduced from 40 feet to 20 feet.

Ordinance 626 also removed the definition for “corner lots” and redefined “rear yard” to include provisions for corner lots. It now defines “rear yard” as: “The yard extending across the entire width of the lot between the rear lot line and the nearest part of the principal building, including covered porches and carports. For corner lots, the rear yard shall be considered the portion of yard in the rear of the structure and immediately adjacent to the street facing side yard.”

*Ordinance 626 amends Huntingdon’s Municipal Code, Section 18-213 (3) to omit “election day” from the list of prohibited days and times to sell beer.

The Town of Huntingdon’s next meeting will take place Tuesday, May 28 at 5:15 p.m.

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