Hickman County Times: Open-records petition filed vs. WADC (2/6/2023)

A petition, filed in Dickson County Chancery Court, claims that Water Authority of Dickson County has denied a public records request from Rodes Hart and Friends of Lick Creek, and asks a judge to order compliance under the state’s public records act.

Filed on January 30, the petition claims that it sought documents pertaining to the utility’s Lick Creek wastewater proposal, including any studies and proposals dating to 2015; and its study to provide wastewater service to the three-school East Hickman school campus in Lyles. The requests which offered to pay up to $2,000 for copies, was made November 4.

Lick Creek area residents and landowners, including Hart, have mounted a campaign against the utility’s plan to construct a wastewater treatment plant near Lick Creek and Highway 7, and release treated effluent into it. An application for the project was filed with the state more than a year ago; no decision has been made.

According to the Tennessee Public Records Law, government — including utilities controlled by local governments, which include WADC — must respond within seven working days. WADC’s response to the request came on December 2.

That response by the utility says it “provided what we believe complies with your request” on the Lick Creek project; and that “most” of the documents regarding the sewer line to the East Hickman campus had been provided to the Hickman County Legislative Body.

Hart and the Lick Creek group say in the petition that they received “a limited set of records” on December 2, though “only 35 documents, some of which were duplicates,” and claim that the response is incomplete and exceeded the “seven working day” requirement for response.

WADC’s response says most of the documents requested are on the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation website. Hart and the Lick Creek friends.

Hart and Lick Creek claim that WADC “willfully denied” their request by not providing all documents from its own files, regardless of whether they were available from another source.

Hart and the friends group expected, according to the petition, to receive “notes, drafts and internal communications and other preliminary documents” related to the two projects in Hickman County, as far back as January 1, 2015 on the Lick Creek project. Correspondence with county commission members or consultants were requested as well.

WADC “does not have any knowledge” of correspondence, its attorney told Hart and the Lick Creek group.

The petition asks a judge require that WADC appear in court to answer the petition, and require that copies of “the requested records,” also award attorney fees and costs relief.

A court date had not been set as of February 1.

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