After conversations seemingly stagnated for months, talks of expanding the sewer line on I-24 toward exit 105 have resurfaced in Manchester. The discussion started when North Coffee Elementary School renovation planning began. Coffee County’s Board of Education learned the school would need either a new septic system or a new sewer line to be connected to the school.
Talks stalled in May after the county introduced talks of a new sewer line and line expansion in the North Coffee area to accommodate the school and future commercial projects.
In May, Coffee County Mayor Gary Cordell estimated the project would cost $1.3 million and would be able to support the school, as well as two 50-room hotels, a 2,400-square-foot retail store, a 100-seat restaurant and two convenience stores.
To move forward, the county would need to be approved by the city of Manchester.
“We were never approached,” said Manchester Mayor Lonnie Norman. “The first time I was approached was probably a little over a month ago…The first thing we’ve got to do is get some information together that says which way we need to go and see if we can do anything to help make Coffee County and Manchester grow. You know, that’s the most important thing. The key to everything is working together and trying to get something done.
“Like I said, this board has never been approached about trying to do it other than talking to Bryan (Pennington),” Norman added.
Pennington is the Manchester Water and Sewer Department utility director.
With city and county elections behind them and new aldermen and commissioners on the board, both entities got together on Tuesday, Dec. 11 to familiarize themselves with the project and discuss expansion ideas.
If left as is, the current sewer system may not allow for future expansion between I-24 exits 105 and 110. The plant was upgraded in 2011 to move more water in anticipation for 20 years of growth – from 3.4 million gallons a day to 4.3 million. It currently moves around 2 million gallons of water a day. The upgrade cost $11-12 million, according to Pennington.
The problem isn’t the plant, but the pump system that serves North Coffee. It moves 27,000 gallons a day, which is not enough to support commercial or residential growth.
“Anything you build is going to have a capacity at one point,” Pennington said. “The part that we talked about in the Water and Sewer Commission was how do you determine who gets the capacity?
He explained city and county attorneys would need to get together to make an understanding of who dictates that.
“That’s where the project stymied – those are things above and beyond me to work out,” Pennington explained.
He later added that growing up in Manchester, he understands that the space between exits 105 and 110 is huge with a lot of vacant land. That land will be some of the first in Manchester to be scoped out for development as people from Murfreesboro continue to move south.
“A lot of developers are looking there,” Pennington said. “It’s right near the interstate. You can have restaurants, hotels, you can have everything – you can have plenty of commercial and I can see that impact, but some of those other decisions are above and beyond me.”
Pennington explained the North Ridge Subdivision drainage basin, drains to a centralized pump station, it drains it back to town.
To allow for expansion, a new pump station or water tank would be needed, which is in the plans presented by the county last spring.
“We’re part of the city, but we’re separate from the city,” Pennington said. “Financially, the Water and Sewer Department is a separate entity from the City of Manchester. I can’t subsidize the city and the city can’t subsidize us.
“So with that being said, being the enterprise fund, we are for growth. We like to growth. Growth is how we spur our revenue,” he added. “But we have to be responsible with the growth. That’s the main thing. Water growth is a lot easier in the county, but sewer growth? We have to be responsible because state regulations and criteria.”
Therefore when the question of installing larger pipes was raised, Pennington shot it down. The bigger the lines, the more pressure is needed to keep solid sewage moving, therefore the pump station would need to be upgraded anyway.
Manchester Alderman Ryan French added that he isn’t against the expansion, but urged the city representatives to “maintain the integrity of what our tax payers pay for inside of city limits. So I think any kind of expansion out there, we need to have that tied to the long-term growth of the City of Manchester if we’re going to invest in infrastructure in that direction,” he said.
Pennington agreed and added that this plan is big.
“This isn’t just, ‘hey let’s run in there and pop a sewer line in,’ which I said all the way to the county mayor and other we have met with,” Pennington said. “I just want to see responsibly thought out and developed.”
“Whether we like it or not, Murfreesboro is coming this way, period,” he added.
“I can’t support a project if it’s going to negatively impact the sewer plant,” Pennington concluded.
Because of this, he recommended that the city partner with the county for this project to put in a new water line, keep the existing line, and set up a new water tank.
This plan would put the existing water line and tank solely for North Coffee Elementary School, which has been done for various businesses like Home Depot.
The new line and tank would be designed to meet the needs of future expansion in the area.
Resident expansion in the UGB
As talks of expansion continued, French brought up the Urban Growth Banner and to give the options of citizens in the UGB the option to annex themselves into the City of Manchester. In return, they would be connected to the city’s expanded sewer lines.
“I think as far as, and I am not speaking for our board as we haven’t had any discussion about this yet as a Board of Mayor and Aldermen, but typically, we’re going to start tying in the residential residents who want to be part of the city at some point,” French said.
He added that the city cannot force anyone to annex who doesn’t want to be annexed – it has to be voted on by that community. However, French saw potential to marry these two projects together to promote residential and commercial growth in the area between I-24 exits 105 and 110.
He proposed a study be done on the UGB to forecast for future residential growth so the city and county can be ready for what is coming in the next 50 to 100 years.
North Coffee renovations
The Coffee County School Board recently approved preliminary plans for the school’s renovation.
The plans include the following for the current building: a new canopy over the school’s entrance, security renovations, a new office and storage room in the front of the school, the kitchen is expanded into the current cafeteria and the current gym will be turned into a new cafeteria.
The newly construction addition, known as the B building, is planned to include a new middle school regulation sized gym with a stage, which was modelled after Deerfield Elementary School’s gym, a new music room, four new kindergarten classrooms (with or without sinks depending on the cost of the additional plumbing), three new first grade classrooms, a new library and more.
The added rooms would allow the school to get rid of its four portables.
The county has a budget of $5 million for the project. A tax increase is not expected to pay for the project.