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Wilkerson Creek Dominates Commission Discussion
by Ashley Murphy

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Opening the Bradley County Commission meeting last night was Johnny McDaniel, Director of Schools, with the proposed 2010-2011 Bradley County Schools Budget. He stated that the budget is completely balanced and reflects educational priorities. McDaniel then turned the podium over to Rick Smith, Chief Financial Officer for the school system.

Smith stated this had been the most challenging budget in at least 20 years. The sales tax budget fell short by about $1 million due to the sales tax falling short and the economy also not fairing so well. It was estimated last year to run Parkview would cost over $800,000. Now, Smith has condensed that budget to a little over $700,000.

Next year's budget came in balanced at $61,407,500; a $1,497,700 cut from the 2009-2010 budget. Smith stated that if sales tax collections do not pick up, there could be significant budget cuts and layoffs in the next budget cycle.

Commissioner Lisa Stanbery presented a resolution for the agenda on June 7th. The resolution, if passed, would form a John Ross Cabin Advisory Committee. John Ross Cabin is currently located on Red Hill Valley Road and dates back to 1837. Unknown at the time, it is Bradley County's responsibility for upkeep of the cabin and an advisory committee would help keep the county informed of the condition of the cabin.

Stanbery also requested Mayor D. Gary Davis to check on the cost for termite treatment of the cabin, as this is essential so further deterioration and damage do not occur.

Dr. Richard Urban and Angela Young from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation offices in Chattanooga were present to discuss Wilkerson Creek in full detail. Dr. Urban revealed findings of tests taken recently in the Wilkerson Branch.

On April 20th of this year, a test revealed there was no cattle source (excrements), all were human "fresh" bacteria. This means the waste wasn't coming from a septic system, it was a live stream into the creek.

In early May another test was completed, which revealed extremely high e. coli levels. "There was some cattle influence in this test," Dr. Urban said, and there is a "fairly significant human source of pathogens in Wilkerson Branch."

Urban also stated that the collection system at the mobile home park off Michigan Avenue is still un-permitted and should be under state permitting. There are two strategies that could be approached by the commission in order to try and resolve the issue.

Strategy I - Issue notice of violation and an order to the owner of the Peachtree Mobile Park, or issue each resident a notice of violation and hope they can take note of the problem.

Strategy II - The county can induce eminent domain, take control of the septic system and then turn it over to someone (possibly Cleveland Utilities) who will properly maintain the facility.

Dr. Urban stated that he and his office will continue walking the Wilkerson Branch to see if a source can be found for the human waste. Also, the beaver issue is still being researched. The beaver dams can be removed, no word yet on how the beavers can be controlled. A comment led the commission to believe the area where the beavers are located is a wetland, however, Dr. Urban stated that is not the case at this point.

After hearing Dr. Urban speak, County Attorney Joe Byrd stated this is the first he has heard about waste and excrement findings in Wilkerson Creek. However, now that the findings have been revealed, Byrd stated that himself and Sandra Knight, County Engineer, would be happy to work with Dr. Urban and TDEC to resolve issues with the creek.

Marsha Boggs, a Royal Oaks resident, addressed the commission about liability of the county if someone becomes sick. Boggs stated she has grandchildren who she allows to play in the creek, but if it's infected with e. coli, she wants to know who is responsible if someone becomes sick.

Dr. Urban stated that he would just no longer allow the children to play in the creek. Byrd stated that he believes it would be the property owners responsibility if they go into the creek knowing the levels that are in it. Dr. Urban then stated he would entertain the idea of posting warning signs at Wilkerson Creek if requested by the commission.

The Bradley County Commission will hold their next meeting on Monday, June 7, 2010 at 7 p.m. in the Commission Room of the Courthouse.