|State rep targets LCUB again
For the second straight year, State Rep. Harry Brooks, R-Knoxville, will introduce a bill that aims to give Knox County more control on the Lenoir City Utilities Board.
In 2017, Brooks introduced a bill that would require utility services operating across a county line to “achieve proportionate representation.” Because the population LCUB serves in Knox County is greater than that served in Loudon County, LCUB’s Board of Directors would be made primarily of appointees from the Knox County mayor.
“It’s an equity issue,” Brooks said. “It’s a fairness issue.”
The 2017 bill passed the Senate State and Local Government Committee but was defeated in the House Business and Utilities Subcommittee.
State Rep. Kent Calfee, R-Kingston, serves as the Business and Utilities Subcommittee vice chairman and opposed the bill in 2017.
“What really upsets me, and I mean really upsets me — I’ve probably not been so upset in all my time in office — (Knoxville Utilities Board) had the opportunity back in the ‘40s to electrify West (Knox County),” Calfee said. “… KUB could have electrified that back in the ‘40s and chose not to do that.
“... It would put control of the board in Knox County,” Calfee added. “The people who did not build this infrastructure and build this system 50 and 60 years ago would get control of it and that’s not right.”
Brooks plans to submit the bill again but is adding a provision that any in lieu of tax payments also be shared with any municipality served. That amount is currently more than $3 million.
“Currently, all the $3.2 million goes to the city of Lenoir City, the government,” Brooks said. “The customer base includes people that live in Lenoir City, Loudon County, Knox County and Roane County. When you distribute this, Knox County would receive some, Roane County would receive some and Loudon County would receive some.”
According to Brooks, Loudon County would receive more than $225,000, Knox County more than $450,000 and Roane County about $10,000 annually. Calfee said the figure for Roane would be $7,000.
“The fairness issue that’s in it is if you’re receiving the premiums, the monthly charges in the utilities, then those in lieu of taxes ought to be shared with the customers,” Brooks said. “... If you’re a Loudon County citizen, you’re missing almost two pennies on the tax rate. If I was a Loudon County citizen I would pitch a fit.”
Calfee plans to again oppose the legislation.
“They want to take what they didn’t want to build is the bottom line,” Calfee said. “They want to take control of it and it’s just a bad situation. I’ll tell you what, the old saying is figures don’t lie, but liars do figure. … It’s a terrible thing for Lenoir City and Loudon County. Terrible.”
LCUB extended outside the Lenoir City limits initially as a public service, Calfee said, and not because of anticipated growth in western Knox County. The bill would only punish Lenoir City for that public service, Calfee said.
“This is another attempt to take over something that was built from LCUB to serve the public,” he said. “Now it’s turned out very successful and they want it. I’m 100 percent opposed to that, 100 percent.