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LAUREL HILLS POA ACTION QUESTIONED BY STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL

CROSSVILLE — The Laurel Hills Property Owners Association on Renegade Mountain recently notified Renegade Mountain residents and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation that, effective July 9, 2012, it would no longer provide water service to any party other than itself with its water system.

The action has caused a hearing, scheduled Monday, May 21, before the Tennessee Regulatory Authority (TRA).

Results of that hearing will be published in a future edition of the Crossville Chronicle.

As reported in the Knoxville News Sentinel, the State Attorney General's office sent a letter to Laurel Hills POA questioning the action.

According to the Laurel Hills POA notice delivered to Renegade Mountain residents earlier in May, "Laurel Hills encourages persons currently served by its water system to make every effort to find another water source no later than July 9, 2012."

The State Attorney General's office questioned whether the actions of the POA are legal. The AG's office sent a notice to the Laurel Hills POA May 11 asking for explanations of its action by May 17.

According to the notice, written by Vance Broemel, senior counsel, "The Consumer Advocate is also alarmed by Laurel Hills' statement that it plans to terminate service to the public effective July 9, 2012. The Consumer Advocate would note that public utilities have a general duty to provide service within their territory."

The POA only represents about eight units on the mountain, but also owns the water system and most of the land under an LLC known as Moy Toy.

The notice Laurel Hills sent to residents also stated the POA will withdraw its pending petition for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity. The certificate is required to operate a public water system.

Renegade Mountain Home Owners Association President John Moore said he would prefer that the Laurel Hills owners sell or sign off water responsibility to the local Crab Orchard Utility District. The Renegade Mountain HOA represents about 120 residents on the mountain.

According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, Renegade Mountain HOA attorney Melanie Davis said the actions of the Laurel Hills POA triggered the TRA hearing. The proceeding is a show-cause hearing where the POA will have to defend its recent actions or face penalties.

In February of this year, Chancery Court Chancellor Ronald Thurman ruled to extend an injunction for another 60 days, preventing owners of the water system from turning off service to customers on Renegade Mountain, which it had done in January stating residents had not paid their water bills.?The bills were not paid due to a fee dispute, which landed the two groups in Chancery Court.?Thurman also ruled that customers were to pay their water bills to the Laurel Hills Condominiums Property Owner's Association, retroactive to June 2011 at a half-rate of $43.20 per month to the current date within 20 days. Thurman's ruling also stated the customers will continue to pay the monthly rate of $43.20 until further notice from the court or relief from the Tennessee Regulatory Authority (TRA). That rate is half of what Laurel Hills Conominums POA was requesting.?The ruling was made in Cumberland County's Chancery Court during a hearing over a temporary restraining order, or injunction, for the Laurel Hills Condominiums POA, which owns the water system on Renegade Mountain. Members of the Renegade Mountain Community Club filed for the injunction to keep their water service on after the supply was cut off to 84 condominium units.

Thurman granted the continuance of the injunction for 60 days and said he felt "the Laurel Hills water system rate should be regulated by the TRA."?He then ordered both parties to contact the TRA to determine if the system could come under the TRA.

Further developments in the case will be published in the Crossville Chronicle.

Nashville attorney Donald Scholes is representing the Laurel Hills POA in the case.

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