By Chris Gregory, Managing Editor

Trousdale County’s Water Board voted last week to uphold a handshake agreement with a local developer – one that goes against the board’s own policy, however.

Lewis Beasley of Beasley Construction Co. spoke to board members at their Jan. 30 meeting regarding a planned subdivision he is looking to build near First Baptist Church along Highway 25.

According to Beasley, he had previously reached an agreement with former Water Department superintendent Jerry Helm and Scottie Claridy, who held the job on an interim basis after Helm’s retirement until Tommy McFarland was hired to fill the position.

Under the agreement, Water Department employees would do the work of installing the meters and connecting to the utility’s main lines.

Appendix A of board policy, which can be found on the utility’s website, states that, “The Developer will pay, at its own expense and no expense to the Utility, for all material and labor necessary to install and complete the facilities…”

Also no fee for flushing the new lines will be charged, nor will any inspection fee. Appendix A defines the monthly flushing fee as a minimum of $16.63 per lot. And the inspection fee as $100 per day.

The verbal agreement also calls for water and sewer tap fees of $2,000 per tap. Current board policy defines those fees as $2,250 for water and $3,000 for sewer.

“I put the main water line in and dig the line across the road, and y’all put the other in,” Beasley told board members. “That’s the deal I made before.”

Beasley also asked about a $1,250 engineering fee called for by policy to allow an engineering firm retained by the department to review plans, as well as a required bond of 10 percent of the project cost. That bond is refundable once the project is completed.

According to Beasley, engineers retained by his company have already signed off on the water line plans. McFarland pointed out that having a utility’s engineers review plans is standard practice.

Asked by The Vidette later about the agreement, Beasley declined to comment.

McFarland estimated the cost to the Water Department on the one project would be just over $23,000. He pointed out during the meeting that two other contractors have already started to proceed with projects in Trousdale County under the board’s existing policy and free structure.

“If we told him one thing, I don’t care what the policy was, we need to honor it,” said board member Toby Woodmore.

“Once in a while, we need to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes,” added board member Jerry Ford.

County Mayor Stephen Chambers cast the lone vote against honoring the agreement, saying the board needed to follow its written policies regardless of verbal deals.

“Ignorance of the law is no excuse. It concerns me that we had to get our policy from the comptroller because we didn’t have it,” Chambers said. “We’re supposed to know about it.”

Since the board meeting, sources have told The Vidette that one developer has already contacted the Water Department asking to get a similar deal on planned construction.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.