KINGSPORT — Is the Model City going to miss the deadline in providing sanitary sewer and upgraded water lines to around 400 annexed residents in two Rock Springs neighborhoods?
Probably not, but the deadline is on the minds of some city officials, including City Manager John Campbell, who said this week Kingsport needs to move quickly on getting the funding in place for the water and sewer work.
Kingsport has annexed hundreds of residents and thousands of acres of land in the Rock Springs community since 2006, along with building a new elementary school in the heart of the community. Two annexation areas involved portions of the Hidden Acres and Peppertree neighborhoods and were officially brought into the city limits Oct. 1, 2009.
When cities annex county land, a plan of services is part of the agreement, where a city details the types of services it intends to offer to annexed residents and in what time frame.
Some services are provided immediately upon entering the city, such as police and fire protection, garbage collection, schools and recreational facilities; other services have to be provided within a certain time frame, such as water upgrades, sanitary sewer and street lighting.
In Kingsport’s case, it has five years from the effective date of annexation to provide those services. Doing the math, Kingsport has until Oct. 1, 2014, to meet the plan of services for Hidden Acres and Peppertree.
Kingsport earmarked money for the street lighting, water upgrades and sanitary sewer in the 2014 CIP (capital improvement plan) and the funds for that work would be rolled into a bond issuance covering these and a number of other capital projects.
Campbell said this week the bond issuance would likely take place within the next 90 days.
“Our plan is to move immediately and prepare the necessary paperwork for the bond issuance at the next BMA meeting,” Campbell said.
While the BMA has fully expected the bond issuance to come soon after July 1 (the next fiscal year), at the end of Tuesday’s meeting Campbell suggested a number of capital projects be funded even sooner.
The list of projects included the necessary work in Rock Springs and Campbell said the idea would be for Kingsport to seek a capital outlay note for this work, with the note being paid back with the upcoming bond issuance.
Basically, it would be a loan before the loan.
“Those items on (the list) are definitely items we feel that we have to go quickly on to make sure we have the money in place, to issue the contracts as soon as the bids were taken,” Campbell said. “We can actually handle the short-term financing for the water and sewer work from the reserves in the water and sewer (funds) and pay it back with the bond issuances.”
However, the BMA was not receptive to the idea of a capital outlay note and indicated it wanted to stick with the plan of issuing bonds within the next three months.
If Kingsport fails to meet the plan of services on property it annexed, then the state could bar the city from annexing anything else until those services are provided. Though a statewide moratorium on residential annexation is in place for the next year, the moratorium does not include commercial property.
Hank Clabaugh, city engineer, said the water and sewer work in Hidden Acres and Peppertree is expected to be done in two phases, with the first phase scheduled to be advertised for bids in the next week or two. A completion date for the entire project is August 2014.
However, any delay in the project could affect that timetable. One possible delay is if a property owner were to deny a water or sewer easement to the city, as has been done in the Rock Springs community in the recent past.
In those instances, Kingsport had to file petitions of condemnation in Sullivan County Law Court to move forward with the work. Regardless, the easement denial did affect the timetable for the work.
Campbell said he feels like Kingsport can perform the work in Hidden Acres and Peppertree by the deadline, barring “unbelievable weather.”
“We feel very strongly when you’re making a commitment, you need to follow through with that and the city has had a long track record of doing that,” Campbell said. “I think we’ll be able to meet it still, but the point we made to the (BMA) is we couldn’t wait much longer. Every month is critical.”