UPDATE: WWTA to hold second community meeting on proposed Ooltewah plant
UPDATE: Officials will hold another meeting on Wednesday about the proposed wastewater treatment plant in Ooltewah.
Last week, Channel 3 was at the first meeting where the building was so full not all the residents could get in.
There are two meetings scheduled for Wednesday.
The first is a community meeting that starts at 9:15 am at Cambridge Square above Davis Wayne’s restaurant.
The Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority (WWTA) board of commissioners meeting is the second meeting scheduled. It will begin at 3:30 pm at the Development Resource Center on Market Street and is open to the public.
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PREVIOUS UPDATE: There was a heated meeting Thursday night over a proposed wastewater treatment plant in Ooltewah, which would be near some neighborhoods.
Neighbors felt blindsided when they learned about the proposed plant last week, just days before commissioners were set to vote on the sale of the property. That vote failed during the commission meeting.
Representatives with the Hamilton County Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority held the meeting to talk with community members about why the location was picked for the proposed plant, and hoped to ease some concerns. However, many community members said they don't feel like their concerns are being taken seriously.
Many community members threatened to take legal action if the proposal is passed.
"I feel like a lot of questions did not get answered," Erica Fox said after the meeting, she lives in the Heron Bay community.
Community members filled the fire training house in Ooltewah for the meeting.
The proposed wastewater treatment plant would sit on 157 acres of land off Mahan Gap Road near several neighborhoods.
WWTA officials said this particular site was first pinpointed in the 1970’s. They said it’s the most cost-effective option for customers.
About 10 other sites were considered, including TVA property and the Birchwood landfill.
"We can use alternate sites further up the valley, but it would cost more to get there which would affect the rate payer," said Mark Harrison, executive director of the WWTA.
The planned presentation was cut short at the meeting when neighbors shouted questions, demanding answers. They are trying to figure out why they only knew about the proposal days before a scheduled vote.
"So the accusation was that we were doing this under the cover of darkness, which of course is not true,” urged Harrison. “We were being protective of the property owner that we were negotiating with."
Fox said she went to tour another treatment plant in Pigeon Forge to do research for herself.
Like many others, she's concerned about her family's health and property value.
"We will fight this because this is our home,” Fox said. “This is the home where we brought our kids home to. It's the only home they know."
County commissioner Chester Bankston represents the district, he said he was also blindsided by the proposal.
"I knew we were looking for a location, but I was told it was going to be at the Birchwood landfill all the time, until three weeks ago when it pops up on our agenda," said Bankston.
Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger was also at the meeting. He said this is an example of a government entity not working well, and said the WWTA needed to do a better job at informing the public.
Harrison with the WWTA said they are moving forward right now as if this is the site they will use. However, there is a chance another site can be chosen.
The next community meeting will be October 17 from 9:15-10:30 pm during the Ooltewah Council Meeting at 9454 Bradmore Lane (above Davis Waynes).