By Gordon Boyd
Eyewitness News Reporter

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- Think 'plumbing', and you've heard the name of Bill Foxworth's company.

The Tennessee Valley's 'Roto Rooter' franchisee claims that Hamilton County's Water & Wastewater Treatment Authority's (WWTA) sewer line inspection program is flushing his business down the drain.

"Hundreds, literally hundreds of customers," Foxworth says,  "Thousands. tens of thousands, and possibly in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. They're taking business that should be our business and giving it to whoever they want to."

WWTA managers say Foxworth has been suspended, temporarily, from its Approved Contractors list, over issues regarding his conduct during inspections.

But more plumbers piped up similar complaints at the County Commission meeting Wednesday.

"They (plumbers) are spending the majority of the money they can make for these jobs, paying for the paperwork," one says.

"Our goal is to inspect 300 lines a month," WWTA director Cleveland Grimes says, "Right now we're at about 58 a month. what we want to do is add a general contractor, to the existing plumbers."

Several Commissioners won't go with that flow.

"I don't like the way you're treating the customers that pay you money," Commissioner Fred Skillern says,  "I don't like the way you're treating the contractors doing the work. If ever I saw socialism, y'all are the ones leading the pack."

"You're talking about a lot of homes that probably have old sewer lines that probably have not been addressed for years, and years, and years," Commissioner Joe Graham says, "And we're taking on their problem for 8 dollars a month."

Graham questions whether tax dollars are, indirectly,  fixing leaks or blockages that property owners themselves should cover.

WWTA leaders admit folks soon may have to pay more than 8 dollars a month for what amounts to sewer insurance.

Foxworth maintains that the program's problems run deeper.

"The only way to get things resolved is to get out of the sewer business," Foxworth says, "Quit taking service calls and other stuff you've been doing, and let us plumbers go back to doing what we've always done."