History of Consolidated Utility District of Rutherford County
Safe drinking water has always been a concern to people all over the world and the residents of Rutherford County have been no different. As the county grew and began to move from an agrarian society to a more industrial and commercial society, electricity and other services became a part of Rutherford County. The desire to have safe drinking water was the next priority held by local leaders.
In the 1950s and early 1960s, rural residents of Rutherford County began to experience problems with their water supply. All rural residents obtained their water from a well or a spring. Some of those supplies became unreliable and contaminated. There were cases of diphtheria, typhoid fever and other water born diseases. The only safe water supplies were the municipal systems of Murfreesboro, Smyrna, LaVergne and Eagleville.
With increasing water supply problems, local leaders sought the extension of water lines from the municipal systems without success. As was the case of electricity, local leaders began the process of developing a water supply for rural residents of Rutherford County.
Those leaders, with the help and guidance of local attorney, Whitney Steagall, organized four utility districts. The districts were created under the Tennessee Utility District Act of 1937 and were financed under the Farm Credit Act of 1961 and administered by the Farmers Home Administration. Even though there was a Tennessee law permitting the creation of utility districts, few were created due to a lack of funding. Financial resources through the Federal Government provided the funding needed to begin producing and transmitting safe drinking water across the United States as well as in Tennessee.
The Utility District Act of 1937 set in motion the legality for the creation of utility districts including water, sewer, gas and fire protection. These districts could be set up as separate independent governmental entities giving utility districts the same powers as a city government except for the power of taxation. According to new state legislation, utility districts are also subject to all “Sunshine Laws” that apply to all Tennessee governmental entities. All utility districts in Tennessee come under the Utility Management Review Board and operate under EPA rules and regulations and the Department of Environment and Conservation, Division of Water Supply.
Even though funding was available, there were requirements and limitations. No utility district could obtain more than one million dollars in grants and loans. There had to be a supply/source of water available and service area boundaries had to be legally described. Water lines could only be installed to meet the demands of domestic water and fire protection was not a consideration. That requirement caused many small lines to be installed and some of those lines are still in place today. For most utility districts in Tennessee and certainly in Rutherford County, the only option for a source of water was to purchase water from a municipality.
Four utility districts were created in Rutherford County, Stones River, Florence, Double Springs and Rockvale. The original commissioners included: Stones River; Mr. K. Thomas Hutchinson, Mr. Sterling Farmer, and Mr. Allen Watts; Florence; Mr. Harvey Clark, Mr. Tommy Stanford and Mr. Dan Haynes; Double Springs; Mr. Stacey Blankenship, Mr. John D. Sanford and Mr. Clyde Elrod, and Rockvale; Mr. Charles I. Burns, Mr. Wash Powers and Mr. Jerry Burns. The attorney for all these utility districts was Mr. Whitney Stegall. All served without compensation.
With all the legal requirements being met and agreements for a water source in place, the utility districts began operations in the early 1960s with only a few hundred customers. Rockvale bought water from Eagleville, Double Springs and Stones River bought water from Murfreesboro, and Florence bought water from Murfreesboro and Smyrna.
On June 28, 1968, action was taken to merge the Double Springs and the Stones River Utility Districts into Consolidated Utility District of Rutherford County. Soon afterwards Florence and Rockvale merged with Consolidated Utility District. The Commissioners at that time were Mr. K. Thomas Hutchinson, Mr. Sterling Farmer, and Mr. Harvey Clark. Mr. John D. Sanford was the first general manager. The Eagleville Water Department became a part of CUD in the mid 1990s. Charlotte Baskin was the first office employee and Charlie Barrett was the first field employee. The first office consisted of a desk in the lobby of the Rutherford Farmers COOP.
By 1970 events had taken place in Rutherford County that would change the future of the county forever. Interstate 24 had been completed and J Percy Priest Lake had been impounded. J Percy Priest Lake was built for hydro electrical production and recreation. It was not planned to become a source of water for Rutherford and Wilson Counties. By this time new industries were moving into Murfreesboro providing more jobs to the residents of Rutherford and surrounding counties. In 1983 Nissan built its plant in Smyrna giving more reasons for the county to grow placing more demands on water systems.
As Murfreesboro Water and Sewer began to grow and add more customers so did Consolidated Utility District. Rutherford County was moving into a period of continual and increasing growth. In the late 1970’s, Murfreesboro Water and Sewer Department sent a letter to Consolidated Utility District, stating that due to the growth of both systems and lack of supply, no more subdivisions could be added to the Utility District without Murfreesboro’s approval. That letter set into motion actions that would impact all of Rutherford County for years to come.
In 1978 the Board of Commissioners of Consolidated Utility District authorized the consulting engineering firm of HLS Incorporated to proceed with developing plans for the construction of a water treatment plant. The source would be J Percy Priest Lake. Grants and loans were obtained from Farmers Home Administration and in 1981, the K. Thomas Hutchinson Water Treatment Plant went into production with the capacity to produce four million gallons per day.
In 1988 the Water Treatment Plant was expanded to a capacity of eight million gallons per day with a contract with W L Hailey and Company. Another plant expansion, by Judy Construction, took place starting in 2004 and completed in 2006 increasing the capacity to sixteen million gallons per day. Along with the water plant construction was the installation of approximately forty-six thousand feet of forty-eight inch water main and the construction of a new intake. The latest plant expansion, new intake and water lines from the plant can, with the addition of pumps, have the ultimate capacity of thirty million gallons per day.
A major event in the history of Consolidated Utility District is the lawsuit between the City of Murfreesboro and Consolidated Utility District. Under Tennessee law, municipalities have the right to provide their utility services as they annex new territory. In the late 1980s, Murfreesboro proceeded to take over some customers previously served by the Utility District. It was the belief of the Utility District that the territory was to be served by the District and challenged the City’s position in Federal Court. The Court ruled in Consolidated Utility District’s favor, basically saying the State Law could not supercede Federal Law and as long as the utility districts have outstanding bonds issued by Rural Development (Farmers Home Administration), the service area previously defined would be honored and served by the utility district. Today there are many customers in Murfreesboro and Smyrna who receive water from Consolidated Utility District and sewer service from the other entities.
The largest water utility district in Tennessee has grown out of a desire by the original commissioners to provide safe drinking water to the rural residents of Rutherford County. The four original districts started with no assets and only a few customers. As of the end of the 2008-09 fiscal year, Consolidated Utility District has assets approaching two hundred and fifty million dollars and serving nearly forty-six thousand customers with approximately thirteen hundred and fifty miles of water line. We presently serve water from the Cannon County line on the East to the Williamson County line of the West, and from the Wilson County line on the North to the Bedford County line on the South. We are growing at a rate of over three thousand customers per year. In 1988 there were a little over ten thousand customers and thirty-two employees. Today we have ninety employees.
During all the construction and growth of the system, there has been one constant. Our present consulting engineer, James C. Hailey (Jimmy) owner of James C. Hailey, Inc., worked his way through college inspecting some of the first water lines installed by Florence Utility District. He later worked for other engineering firms but continued to work for Consolidated Utility District. He has been as much a part of Consolidated Utility District as any board member or employee.
Our Board of Commissioners consists of five members, all of whom are our customers. Our Board Members are Mr. John L. Batey Jr. President; Mr. William Waite, Vice President; Mr. Craig Lynch, Secretary; Dr. Rosemary Owens, and Mr. Carter Woodruff. Ms. Lynnisse Patrick and Mr. Hassel Smith, III serve as advisory members. The current attorney is Jim Cope. This Board has provided funding so the goals of the originating commissioners can be accomplished. The current Board has been aggressive in their actions as evidenced by the new administration building and the implementation of an automated meter reading system. To this Board and employees of Consolidated Utility District, Rutherford County owes a great deal of thanks for their service.
It is our mission and goal to provide safe drinking water to all within the bounds of Consolidated Utility District at the most reasonable cost for our customers.