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Lawsuit filed over Bell Buckle water

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Disputes about water quality, pressure and pricing in Bell Buckle have reached a boiling point.

Residents of Fosterville Road secured the services of Murfreesboro attorney Jay Jackson to file a class action lawsuit against the town this morning.

The plaintiffs, who live just outside of town limits, began threatening a lawsuit following a petition that residents made in April to garner support for their complaint.


"The lawsuit has three aspects," said Jackson. "The first is the disparity in the base water rates. We believe that Tennessee law prevents them from charging different base water rates for those inside and outside of town. The second is the quality of water, which is the most significant complaint that my clients have. The next part of the lawsuit concerns water pressure."

Bell Buckle has said in the past that they are within the limits of the law when charging higher rates for those outside of town limits.

"Historically, we've been told by various agencies that you are allowed to charge a higher rate for water outside of the city due to your infrastructure being spread out," Bell Buckle Mayor Dennis Webb said at the May 1 meeting of the town's water board.

MTAS advice

In response to emails regarding the town's rate policies, Municipal Management Consultant Ron Darden of the University of Tennessee's Municipal Technical Advisory Service had advised the town that all of its water bills must be uniform as long as it is receiving federal and state funds, which it is.

"We went to the meetings and tried to work with them, and they've not given us any respect or the time of day to do anything so we felt like we were pushed to filing a lawsuit," said plaintiff Brooke Smith Sanders.

According to Jackson, the plaintiffs have requested information pertaining to water quality and pricing from the town of Bell Buckle's attorney, Greg Perry, but it wasn't sufficient to explain what's happening with the disparity of rates and quality of water.


"I never got the impression that they had any intention to do anything to explain charging base water rates that are significantly disproportionate to those living outside of the city limits," Jackson said.

The lawsuit is a class action, a form of lawsuit in which a large group of people collectively bring a claim to court.

"We believe that everyone outside the town limit that has been charged higher rates should share the same common cause of action and the same injury," said Jackson.

The city of Bell Buckle declined to comment, citing the pending lawsuit, but city leaders said they test the water regularly, and insist it is safe.