Before talks of sewer expansion to Exit 105 were stalled by an email, the City of Manchester offered Coffee County a deal to help pay them back for the project. The committee consists of six representatives – three city aldermen and three county commissioners. They are aldermen Bob Bellamy, Ryan French and Mark Messick and Commissioners Kraft, Margaret Cunningham and Joey Hobbs.
Since April 2018, the county has been discussing expanding Manchester’s sewer line under US 41 heading toward I-24 Exit 105. This larger line would allow for North Coffee Elementary School renovations to occur without water pressure concerns, and would open the door for commercial development in that area. The county would pay for the entire project, which was estimated to cost $1.3 million, out of their rural infrastructure fund.
The new line would be sufficient to service two restaurants and two hotels, which would be located in the county.
“[Exit] 105 is a kickoff,” said county commissioner Ashley Kraft during the Monday, Jan. 28 sewer committee meeting. “I see 105 has a stepping stone to help Manchester…All of a sudden people will be looking at 110, 111, and spur growth.”
To help the city, as the county developments would be using city water, the county commissioners offered to pay the city back up to half of the hotel privilege tax. The money would only be applicable if the state approved of the tax, which can be up to 10 percent, and if hotels were built in that area. The remaining portion of the tax would be used to build up the county’s rural infrastructure fund.
But city representatives were not on board with this proposal. French, who chairs the sewer committee, offered something else.
Manchester, Tullahoma and Coffee County all have areas to expand into, called the urban growth boundary (UGB). A majority of this area is owned by the county. The North Coffee Elementary area is in the county’s UGB, which is a point of contention for city officials, as the future developments would be tied onto a city sewer line if this expansion project goes through.
Because there is no guarantee hotels will be developed in that area, the city wanted to shift focus from commercial growth to residential and restrict usage of the sewer line to properties that annex out of the county’s UGB and into the city.
Alternatively, the county could open the UGB and allow the city to expand into the North Coffee area.
In both scenarios, French offered to give the county a portion of that area’s sales tax, which would be collected by the city if the development annexed or is in the city’s new UBG, to help pay the county back for the sewer line.
“Honestly, I don’t think the county will want to agree…the county doesn’t want to give up that money. What we did talk about, which is a great idea Ashley (Kraft) had going down the road, is possibly, if we get these extra hotel/motel things, maybe circling back around and giving you guys some percentage of that or something, just being creative with financing there to pitch into that,” said Cunningham.
Cunningham added the city is asking for the county to pay for a project and then potentially take full control of it.
Annexation cannot be forced on properties – owners have to request it for the city. Even then, annexation is not guaranteed.
Manchester Water and Sewer Department Director Bryan Pennington explained the city evaluates the area and looks at if there is the infrastructure in place, such as fire protection, to decide if it would be cost efficient to allow annexation. If annexed, the city would not get money from water bills – all of that goes to the Water and Sewer Department, which is not owned by the city.
Cunningham said there is nothing wrong with the policy of requesting annexation if the developer wants to tie onto the city sewer lines, but opening the UGB for Tullahoma and Manchester may be asking too much.
To reform the UGB, two of the three entities – Manchester, Coffee County and Tullahoma – would need to be in agreement of the boundaries. The county is the only entity that can open up the UGB for new borders to be drawn.
“We’re talking about the county building a big enough sewer, the new water, paying for the supplies, and paying for stuff that will hatch your scenario…to deal with yourself. That wouldn’t be ours,” Cunningham said.
French agreed with her concerns.
“I agree with Margaret. My potential concern would be is, okay so we’re going to allow a commercial corridor to go out here to compete with the city for sales tax dollars. Counties don’t typically do that. Municipalities are where your sales tax dollars are generated.” French said.
“What’s to say we don’t have the same sales tax issue on 117 in a couple of years? What is to say we don’t have the same issue in Hillsboro in a couple of years?” French asked.
Kraft responded by saying by then, those areas will be developed more than the city could ever imagine. She called the Exit 105 project a stepping stone to that explosion of development.
French wasn’t convinced relying on commercial entities was the way to go and said he would be more than willing to partner with the county to get the two hotels built in Manchester, as he is afraid of the county and city trying to compete for sale taxes in the future.
Therefore French asked the county to agree to two things: anything that ties onto the new sewer line should be annexed to the City of Manchester and to run the expanded sewer line out.
To balance out the offer, French proposed the city give the county a portion of the sales taxes generated from the annexed properties to help build back their rural infrastructure fund.
“Sales tax are going to pay that back quicker,” French said, in comparison to the hotel privilege tax.
It was also confirmed by Pennington the potential developments would not put a strain on the city’s sewer capacity.
Before the discussion was temporarily halted, the commissioners agreed to take the offer back to the full commission for discussion at the end of the Monday committee meeting.