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Concord residents hold First Utility District expansion meeting

Concord Presbyterian Church was the gathering place for a community meeting about First Utility District’s plans to expand its Turkey Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant that will require the condemnation of more than 18 acres of land known as “Callaway’s Landing.”

Spearheading the campaign against expansion is spokesperson Lee Johnson. Johnson is married to one of the heirs of the property, which because of previous government acquisitions, stands at 50-acres from 300.

Mike Mitchell attended the meeting as a representative of Citizens for Responsible Growth and Development. Mitchell said the group formed because of concerns over growth in West Knox County and noted direct links between utilities and new development. His group is concerned about “urban sprawl.” They have studied the effect of urban sprawl in Atlanta, which Mitchell called, “the poster child of what not to do.” In order for Atlanta to grow as it did, the city first took sewer lines everywhere, he said. He went on to say about FUD’s plans: “This frightens me.”

One of his concerns affects the geography of the proposed construction site. According to an inspection by a state geologist, the sites contain sinkholes. It’s a common problem in the area. They affected FUD’s construction of the current plant in the 1990s. Last year TDOT repaired a portion of Concord Road, just northeast of the plant, because of damage sustained by a sinkhole.

Most notable is the sinkhole cited under the proposed location of a tank slated to hold 15-million gallons of sewage. If something were to happen, Mitchell said, “we’d be decimated.”

Another controversial aspect involves how the plant expansion would be used to service FUD customers in Loudon County. Mitchell questioned why FUD couldn’t build there. “There has to be some place in Loudon County that’s a win-win for everyone.”

He urged the group to appeal to government officials and spread the word about FUD’s plans. “This is not set in stone but the engravers are on the way,” he said.

Bill Threlkeld, president of the Old Concord homeowner’s association, addressed the group after stating the association had not taken a position on the issue. He is concerned about the potential for more odor. The smell is overbearing already, Threlkeld said. “This is a community who likes to spend time on our front porches.”

The group is also concerned about the historic value of the structures on the Ralston land. “We are interested in preserving houses,” he said.

Another environmental concern is the potential for fog. Johnson said, according to FUD’s plans, the proposed equalization tanks would be built too close to a main thoroughfare, about 40-feet at closest approach to Concord road which is slated for widening.

The two tanks would cover a surface area larger than three football fields. Johnson asked the group to consider the implications of fog at Concord and Northshore, one of the busiest intersections in the county.

Francis and Mac Abel came to the Concord meeting as citizens who have lived there 60 years. The couple is sympathetic with the Ralstons but understands FUD’s needs. “Something has to be done,” Francis said. “But what’s the answer? I don’t know.”

Alderman Dorothy LaMarche attended the meeting as did County Commissioner Craig Leuthold who toured the plant prior to the meeting. He met with FUD assistant manager Wayne Watson and asked him to, “step back and reexamine” in order to uncover alternatives.

Leuthold, an advocate for controlling urban sprawl, told the group, “like it or not, the development is coming.”

Ironically, one of those developers is the Ralston family, who recently asked for rezoning of a portion of their land to residential, they said, in order to preserve it. The development will include 24 bungalow-style homes.

Scott and Ellyn Brewer came to the meeting to express concerns over another one of the family’s developments planned for land adjacent to the Brewer’s home. While the couple was adamant about not wanting a bigger plant in their community, they were also clear that they didn’t want the “strip mall” the Ralston family plans to develop in their backyard.

Resident Janice Hall noted her frustration with the power afforded public utilities. “They are like TVA, they come in and take Tellico and what do they do? They sell it,” she said. “We might as well live in Russia,” she said to neighbors after the meeting.

While FUD did not send a representative to the meeting, the group urged concerned citizens attend the next FUD board of commissioners meeting scheduled for 7 p.m., Monday, Aug. 23. The meetings, which are open to the public, are held at FUD’s main offices at 122 Durwood Road.


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