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Water's availability determines suitability of site for development

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A businessman with interests in Arizona and California sought information last month about getting water service to land he might want to develop northeast of Belfast.

It might all be nothing but blue sky speculation. Still, what Darrell Ruppel found at the most recent meeting of the Marshall County Board of Public Utilities is what many others find.

There's a cordial welcome by the MCBPU, the board listens to the visitors' requests, and its leaders offer to place the visitors' names on a list of people who want water. They're told that when it's feasible to extend service then they'll be notified.

"We'll pick out the roads that we can do the most for," MCBPU Chairman Rocky Bowden said about properties where water service is sought and where utility rights of way normally run parallel to roads.

"We'd like you to look at Round Hill Road - other than the two-inch line" that's being improved, Ruppel told the MCBPU.

Bob Ramsey, the MCBU's consulting engineer, said, "We're pretty close to opening that line for more taps." Water testing must be completed before more customers may tap on to the pipe that's been improved with increased water pressure.

Parks Gold of Gold Road addressed the board before Rupple.

"We've got sulfur water," Gold said, asking for water service.

Rupple said later, "As Mr. Gold suggested, 'If there was money available, would you be interested?'"

Rupple lives at Lake Havasu City, Ariz., and is previously from Lake Arrowhead, Calif., about 60 miles east of Los Angeles. His company, Cuatro Vientos (four winds) LLC is chartered in Montana. He's built duplexes in the Palm Springs area and a medical building at Lake Havasu, he said.

"We have some relatives who live in Marshall County with walking horses and more Angus cattle than horses," Rupple said. "We liked the area and bought land with a house."

His property fronts Roy McCullum Road and he's been in discussions with a Lewisburg-based real estate woman about land at Round Hill.

In a telephone interview last week, Rupple explained his interest in 93 acres close to his Marshall County house.

"We'd hoped it (the MCBPU) would be more amenable to bring water to Round Hill on what's not such a long run on a right of way that, I've been told, was dedicated," Rupple said.

The concept Rupple has considered for development at Round Hill is "'ranchettes,' as they're called in California," he said. "They have an acre or two."

Rupple couldn't put a number on how many such home-sites that might be developed on the 93 acres because his idea is, admittedly, speculative,

Still, he's been considering the concept for land here and saw it as having potential here "if the economy swings back and if we can get water," Rupple said.

The territory in question is in the vicinity of Roy McCullum Road, Sam Simpson Road and Round Hill Road.

"Tennessee, as I understand it, is a slow growth state and Marshall County is no different," Rupple said. "We have friends with property closer to Nashville and, if you look at Chapel Hill, you will see things growing. I think it will move our way and it would be nice to be on the cutting edge of that."

He was pleased with his reception at the MCBPU meeting. He remained for the rest of the meeting and subsequent discussion was also of interest to the developer.

Todd Warner, a developer of The Villas just north of Chapel Hill, was present and interested in hearing the MCBPU discuss STEP systems. Septic Tank Effluent Pump systems for disposal of household wastewater are a hybrid of rural septic tanks with forced flow sewers leading to a communal filtration system. They allow construction of buildings closer together and those homes don't rely on a municipal system.

The Villas' wastewater flows through a STEP system but, until recently, few of the units were occupied and there was low flow, as well as too few residents to pay utility bills to the MCBPU which obtained control of that utility system after The Villas were finished.

The cost of operating the STEP system had been greater than the revenue flow from users and MCBPU leaders are contemplating how to write their next agreement with a developer who installs a STEP system so there's no financial drag on the county-owned utility.

Such a system is of interest to Rupple, but he wants more information, the Arizona resident said.

Also during its monthly meeting the MCBPU unanimously adopted its budget for fiscal year 2009-10.

It anticipates revenues of $7,858,406 combined with a fund balance of $1,574,213 from the past fiscal year to have $9,432,619 available for projected expenditures of $8,253,248.