SHELBY COUNTY, TN (WMC) - Leaders within city of Memphis and Shelby County are taking sides over sewer connections. The city said it's stopping any new development in unincorporated areas of Shelby County from connecting to Memphis' sewer system.
The policy decision isn't sitting well with some county leaders.
"We're sitting down and looking at controlling how much growth we allow to happen," said City of Memphis Public Works Director Robert Knecht.
Mayor Jim Strickland's administration first put out the new policy in mid-August, stating the city won't allow new sewer hookups, either commercial or residential, outside of its limits, effective immediately.
Knecht said the administrative decision did not require city council approval.
"This is about looking at how we can ensure the City of Memphis, its residents, and future growth are served first," said Knecht. "The reason people live outside of those boundaries is they want to live in a rural setting, but they want city services."
Knecht said the city sewer system has limited capacity and is in need of massive upgrades. Memphis City Council approved a five-year set of fee hikes effective in January to fund at least $500 million to modernize the system.
County leaders aren't on board with the city's new directive.
"We're going to have to fight our corner on this," said Shelby County Commissioner Heidi Shafer.
Shafer said the city's move puts millions of dollars worth of development in unincorporated areas at risk in the short-term and long term. It would substantially halt county growth.
"It kind of smells a little bit of an underhanded consolidation move," she said.
Shafer said the county would have to come up with millions to construct its own sewer system and that could take years. In the meantime, she said talks between the two sides continue with the county hoping to strike a compromise.
"We're just confused about how the rules of the game are changing overnight and midstream," she said. "We're really hoping that we can work something out with the city so that everybody can win."
Here's a copy of the city's new sanitation policy: