After two tense, chaotic committee meetings and a 720-signature petition, the potential greenway extension on Upper Station Camp Creek Road is off the table for now, but residents still face the possibility of losing land for an access road the county wants to build for a new sewer system for the new Liberty Creek schools complex.
After county leaders removed the wording to include a greenway extension in the project, members of the Legislative Committee, along with residents, discussed on June 10 whether a forced main sewer system along the existing Station Camp Creek Road would be a better option than the gravity flow sewer system suggested by the White House Utility District.
The county currently has the right-of-way to the existing road to widen for a main system, which would be less invasive to residents. The gravity flow system would require additional easements to build a new access road through the back yards of private properties.
For a gravity flow system, WHUD requires a hard surface access road to get to equipment in case of emergency. According to WHUD District Engineer Pat Harrell this requirement has been in place and carried out for over 10 years.
In an email document passed around by and discussed by commissioners, Harrell mentioned several current locations of these roads. Examples included an access road inside Carellton subdivision, through Savannah subdivision and south of Wellington Farms apartments.
“Most of these access roads are inside subdivisions,” said Commissioner Loren Echols. “I think that’s what’s so hard about this. We’re talking about (going) through people’s property and literally running along their driveway.”
The proposed road would run parallel to Station Camp Creek, through the back yards of citizens and in the floodplain. Harrell also addressed this in his email and said that “gravity sewer mains need to be installed relatively close to streams/creeks at the lowest practical elevation in order to most efficiently provide service and be safe to maintain.”
Citizens and commissioners alike questioned the sewer’s integrity in this area with the flooding.
Upper Station Camp Creek Road resident Dean Hibbs sent a video to all commissioners of flooding that takes place in the area.
“How in the world are we not going to get sewage from the sewer system that’s inundated with water,” he said and called the easement theft of property. He also questioned why no cost analysis was done.
Citizen Ruth Fennell also asked a series of questions concerning environmental impacts, legal ramifications, the type of system and its location.
“You have the ability to make a difference, a positive difference or you can turn your head away, not do research and vote to follow a path not worthy of Sumner County,” she said.
Resident Kyle Robinson contacted the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) with his concerns because he said he “can’t get answers on stuff from people who should know the answers.”
“Pressure systems are less expensive to put in. Why are we looking at this?” he said. “The county has easement rights to the front of our property to widen the road.”
Robinson was also told that there is no state statute requiring an access for a sewer road and said he was laughed at when asked.
This is contradictory to what was said by Harrell.
Following recognition of the public, Commission Chairman Scott Langford moved to remove all language of the greenway and stay with the proposed system.
Echols questioned running the sewer up the (current) road and was answered by County Mayor Anthony Holt.
“It would have to be totally re-engineered and that would take a while and be expensive according to our conversations with the engineer,” he said.
He called the gravity flow the best system and said that they are required by WHUD to engineer it to their standards.
“In my opinion what we have here is a situation, so I would be in support of authorizing what we need to do to redo the engineering study and look at putting the sewer up the road,” Echols said and made the amendment.
School complex excavation and timing
A large point of consideration was the timing of the sewer discussion given the ground breaking for the school in October or November, according to Holt.
A change in plans would set things back.
“I think we’re at the point now where with the school opening, we want to do what’s best for the county and I believe that’s the gravity flow,” Langford said and voiced that he would not vote for the amendment.
Holt later mentioned that the Station Camp schools are on the same system and that it would be the same extended sewer line.
“We can appropriate more money, but if we do we’re going to redesign the whole system, go through all the permits,” the county mayor said. “You’re probably out at least a year and a lot more expense … and every year, we delay that school system you’re looking at about a 2.5 – 3 percent inflation rate so that school’s gonna cost us more.”
Like Robinson, Commissioner Jeremy Mansfield also contacted TDEC and was told there is no state statute about an access road. He also spoke to Harrell.
“He told me that it’s more profitable for them to have the gravity fed system because of new development - to service new development,” Mansfield said, adding that that’s why the system will go on the right side of the road and not the school side. “That’s the whole reason the gravity fed system is being pushed up Upper Station Camp Creek Road. It’s for new development. It’s not for the school.”
Echols’ amendment was voted on and failed by vote of 3-2 with 1 abstention. Prior to this, Mansfield asked if an independent firm could also weigh in and was met with questions.
“I’m not saying we have the White House engineer design it but the Board of Education got an engineer that did this design and they don’t work for the Board of Education,” said County Law Director Leah May Dennen. “They are an independent group.”
Langford reworded his motion to remove all greenway language and to ask WHUD to use the least invasive route to the sewer. It was passed unanimously and it was asked if Commissioner Leslie Schell would contact WHUD to have an engineer speak at the full commission.
The greenway and history
This access road was additionally meant to act as an extension of the Lower Station Camp greenway. It made the Reed family decide to move.
“We moved from Nashville to get away from all of this,” said David Reed.
Signs saying, “No greenway in my yard” and “Protect private property rights” popped up in yards down the right-hand side of the road after residents were mailed their condemnation letters.
The letters were dated May 31 and discussed the easements and a property map. The residents received two. The first one was for the sewer easement. The second was for the greenway easement. Citizens were given until June 21 to accept the included offer or their land was condemned.
It was originally taken off the agenda of the June 3 General Operations Committee the prior Friday because the document needed to be redrafted.
However, it was still on the agenda under the capital projects list although it was argued that it was not and citizens were allowed to speak.
Long Hollow Pike resident Deborah Holmes teared up about losing her family’s “spot”; Robinson discussed safety and liability issues; Gallatin resident Lee-Anna Thomas wondered how it was going to be policed.
It was reminded that commissioners passed this resolution in February 2016, but resolution 1602-05 only mentioned money appropriated for “engineering design fees for the new school campus.”
Commissioner Larry Hinton said he did not know about it when he voted in 2016.
“What concerns me is whether I had all the information,” he said.
Mansfield brought this up at the June 10 meeting and pointed to a small reference found in the Feb. 8, 2016 Budget Committee notes that did not get carried to the full commission.
“The problem was it was mentioned in discussion,” said Budget Committee Chairman Chris Taylor. “We talked about it, but it wasn’t written in the resolution, but people moved forward like it was.”
All legal activity regarding the easements has been halted until further decision after the next commission meeting on June 17 at 7 p.m.