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First Utility sets sights on Callaway’s Landing
Landowners adamantly oppose FUD offer


If First Utility District has its way, the Turkey Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant will nearly double in size and capacity over the next few years.

FUD’s long range-plans were presented at the Farragut Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting Thursday, July 22.

Leland Johnson addressed the Board explaining why his family is adamantly against the expansion of the facility. Johnson, who is married to Anne Ralston, one of the owners of the property dubbed “Callaway’s Landing,” represented the family. The Ralston’s property (land needed for FUD’s expansion) is likely to be considered as eminent domain, a law that allows government to take private property for public use for compensation.

According to Johnson, FUD contacted the property owners in June with an offer to purchase the nearly 20 acres needed for expansion. The family refused the offer. Johnson’s presentation at the FBMA meeting came a week after the Ralston family requested rezoning of three parcels of their land from agriculture to RI/OSR at the Farragut Municipal Planning Commission meeting July 15.

Johnson said FUD informed the family of its plans to have the land condemned in order to build two additional clarifiers and oxidation ditches. Most significant in the plans are the addition of two equalization basins to the facility. The lagoons (each larger than a football field and up to 20 feet deep) will be built to hold 15 million gallons of sewage and will have aerators that will constantly operate.

Ralph McCarter, FUD general manager, said the expansion is necessary to keep up with the growth of their service area (West Knoxville/Farragut), to be compliant with federal laws and to handle flow that comes from rain events. McCarter noted the problems KUB and the City of Knoxville have had to deal with because of recent heavy rains.


We don’t want a system that can’t handle such incidents, he said.

McCarter added the utility has tried to be proactive in its long-range plans. “You don’t just build a plant and leave it,” he added. “The community keeps growing.”

Case in point, McCarter reports FUD had more than 17,000 water customers and 13,268 sewer customers in 1990. Now the utility reports having more than 28,000 water customers and more than 25,000 sewer customers.

“We cover 65 squares miles, roughly 13 percent of the county. Even though we’re a postage stamp in the county, people want to live in West Knoxville.

“Everyone must have good pure water and must have waste carried away and treated properly, that’s our job,” he added. “Our challenge is to do it economically.” McCarter notes the utility operated nearly ten years (from 1994-2003) without a rate increase.

Johnson stressed the proximity of one of the proposed basins to Concord Road, describing it as the distance from the front of the Town Hall meeting room to the back.

McCarter said the utility takes precautions before relocating a water or sewer line and will consider the proposed expansion of Concord Road in the design.

Johnson is also concerned about safety issues like the potential for fog and noted the odor involved with expanding the facility. He hopes that these issues can be discussed in a public forum so that all parties as well as the community can weigh the alternatives. Johnson, a civil engineer, has been working with Dr. Dennis Weeter, a consultant on utility issues, to uncover alternatives.

Both Johnson and McCarter claim the other party has refused invitations to discuss the matter.

Johnson’s family’s land has been seized by the government on three previous occasions. The once 300-acre farm now stands at 50 acres. The Tennessee Valley Authority took all but 74 of the 300 in 1939 to develop Fort Loudoun Lake. In 1940, Knox County split the farm to build Concord Road. FUD took 10 acres in 1971 to build the wastewater treatment plant. Twenty years later, FUD attempted to take an additional 24 acres, but settled for 14.

Johnson noted how the FUD expansion could affect the subdivision the family was hoping to develop north of the facility, in large part, Johnson said, to protect the land from further acquisition by FUD. Now, Johnson added the family would have to revisit their development plans. “I’m not sure that having 30 million gallons of raw sewage down the road is conducive to bringing in a subdivision,” he said.

Johnson is also concerned that the land FUD is looking to condemn is historically significant. It contains the site of an encampment by Union troops during the Battle of Campbell Station, a sharecropper’s shack built before 1900, the family’s farmhouse built in 1911, an apartment constructed to house Manhattan Project defense workers from Oak Ridge and a “marble barn” built in 1915. The barn is so named because it was built with marble blocks quarried from Callaway’s Ridge which overlooked the farmland.

The marble quarry was opened by James Callaways, the son of the property’s initial owner. Johnson said because of the history involved, because of family members’ wishes to retire on the property and because of the implications of the FUD expansion on the community, the family is prepared to take the matter to court whereby McCarter said, “It’s in our customer’s interests to proceed under eminent domain.” McCarter said he understood the property owners’ point of view. “Nobody wants to have to sell their land,” he said. “But we have no choice if we’re going to provide services for our customers.”

 

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