Seventh District commissioner Bill Winters reported on a two-hour meeting he had with Hank Thompson, the TDEC engineer who does septic tank reviews and applications for the region.
In terms of enlightenment, “It was very good to see his world, and how overwhelmed he is with permits,” Winters said.
Part of the incentive to form the committee was complaints about the slow speed at which septic tank permits were being processed.
The current engineer, who serves more than one county, is not a constant figure at the Bradley County Courthouse, as he maintains an inspection schedule which includes those other counties.
Winters presented a summation of the meeting, saying Thompson was not fully aware of what the committee’s purpose was.
“I told him we were just looking at ways to speed up the permit process,” he said.
Winters said he asked why permits could not be done within a five-day time frame.
He said Thompson told him when the office was originally formed in the 1980s, there were five people.
“There is now one person in there, with one part-time support person,” Winters said.
Winters said he asked Thompson his opinion as to what option would work best to assist the office in making the system more efficient.
According to Winters, Thompson said consumers need to be educated into having more patience with the system.
“He told me about a real estate agent who was closing the next day and needed a permit within the next day,” Winters said.
Thompson showed Winters piles of paperwork still needing his attention within the next few days.
“I kept looking at my watch and thinking how I wanted to leave because I knew he had that to do,” Winters said. “He is given some impossible timelines.”
Winters said the possibility of sharing responsibilities with Hamilton County is not possible, since that county operates its own system and Bradley County is a state office.
When Winters asked Thompson if Bradley County would be better served if it operated its own office, the reply was, “It’s up to you.”
“We would lose the current state environmentalist, because he is a state employees,” Winters said.
He noted the county would also pick up liabilities for any errors that office might make in causing major property damage.
Currently, the county gets 8 percent of fees. That revenue currently stands at $93,000. If it ran its own office, it would get all of those fees.
Winters said he asked Thompson if one more staff person paid for by the county would be of any help in the efficiency and delivery of customer service.
“Yes,” Winters said. “The person could be trained to answer questions, keep the backlog and paperwork moving and give local taxpayers a voice in the office.”
He said it would be possible to do some of these ideas, “but there would be risks and rewards with them.”
The committee will be doing cost analysis and continuing studies on the matter.
A date for any formal recommendation has not been set.