Given the amount of time the average Spring Hill resident spends in traffic, the city's road infrastructure inadequacies are of no secret.
The city's wastewater treatment plant, however, is reaching closer to levels exceeding its capacity every day, something that largely goes unnoticed by the general populace.
Vincent Fuqua, current alderman and mayoral candidate for Spring Hill, said that if elected, he would make improving the city's infrastructure — sewer included — his highest priority, and would also work at expanding the city's green space and incentivizing businesses to employ Spring Hill residents.
First elected as alderman in 2017, Fuqua has been a Spring Hill resident for decades and currently operates Southbound Erosion, a landscaping company that mostly caters to residential clients as opposed to commercial.
Calling himself a "lifelong entrepreneur," Fuqua entered the world of entrepreneurship early in life when he and his brother inherited his father's car wash in Nashville when he was just 11 years old. Getting more involved in running the car wash at around 16, Fuqua continued to work through high school as a means to pay for college.
During his late high school and college years, Fuqua was a volunteer firefighter for the Spring Hill Fire Department. Originally studying medicine at Columbia State University, Fuqua shifted to the world of business after getting a taste of "the entrepreneur spirit."
"Maturing Spring Hill"
When asked what it was that led him to decide to run for mayor, Fuqua said that he had always seen the prospect of moving from alderman to mayor as a possibility. It was after Mayor Rick Graham announced that he would not be seeking re-election that Fuqua discussed the idea of running with his wife.
"Spring Hill, being a very young [city], one of the biggest things that I wanted to bring to the board was maturing Spring Hill on how we develop, what that looks like," Fuqua said.
"So a little over a year ago, [Graham] had mentioned to me in passing that he wasn't going to run again. I talked to my wife and it was an absolute hard yes; we prayed about it and just felt this was going to be the next step."
Fuqua felt that Graham had faced a particularly steep set of challenges during his tenure, particularly in lifting the city out of a "financial nightmare," one that he rested blame in part on the city's decision to not collect property taxes for a three-year period in the mid-2000s.
"[Graham] has done a good job on his leadership and some of the strategies... his biggest [challenge was] getting us out of a financial nightmare — we're just now seeing the benefits of all of their labor over the past several years," Fuqua said.
"Now, we can move on from that and hopefully develop smarter and with a little more integrity. Spring Hill focused so much on growth without infrastructure for so long, it's going to be a problem indefinitely. Can we narrow the gap as we move forward? [Yes], if we're smart about it, if we have good board members that want to dedicate their time to the research."
While admitting that in some ways it still felt as if the city was "still playing catchup," Fuqua remained optimistic at the prospect of residents seeing relief soon when it came to the city's roads.
"The one good thing about Spring Hill is that essentially what we're working on now is what I refer to as 'the loop;' Duplex [Road] is now done, we're working on Buckner Lane, Buckner Road, the I-65 interchange and Highway 31," Fuqua said.
"In completion of all of those, we're going to have 360 degrees that's going to give access to the entire city — that's going to redistribute traffic. At the point that all of this opens up, leadership is going to have to then take a stance [as to] what's next: is that widening Port Royal [Road] from Saturn Parkway to Duplex [Road]? That's something that we're going to have to work through, but I think we can make good progress over the next decade to catching up and having a better sense of flow throughout the city."
"[Sewer] should be every elected official's number one priority"
While building on the city's road infrastructure was at the top of his priority list, perhaps more important, Fuqua argued, was addressing the city's sewer capacity.
"There's roughly 15,000 addresses in Spring Hill, there's about the same number that's ready to be built; our sewer plant capacity sees 4.1 million gallons a day in flow — it can handle five million," Fuqua said.
"What's interesting about that is [when] we have an infiltration of storm water into the sewer system on rain events, that can excess about 1.3 million gallons. That [exceeds] our sewer plant capacity, [so] that is going to be the biggest issue that we face."
Fuqua explained that Spring Hill faced a unique challenge in addressing its sewer capacity issue as the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) has told city officials that they cannot increase the amount of liquid waste being deposited into Rutherford Creek, the city's normal treated wastewater depositing spot.
Instead, Fuqua said the city will have to find more unique ways of increasing its sewer capacity, with one idea being to purchase land to construct wastewater drip fields. Alternatively, Fuqua said he would like to look into gathering more data on Rutherford Creek for the purpose of potentially convincing TDEC to permit an increase in the amount of liquid waste allowed to be deposited.
"If we could work with TDEC on figuring out how we could strategically come up with realistic flow data of the creek, as long as our [liquid waste] doesn't dominate the flow of the creek, we could be in a position to negotiate more permit, which would mean no big land costs, no piping," Fuqua said.
"This next board's got some unique challenges on figuring out what's the most proactive way to make sure that when you flush, it's going somewhere."
Economic development, amenities
While both the road and sewer infrastructure remain Fuqua's highest priorities, attracting businesses and giving residents a reason to stay in the city was another focal point of Fuqua's vision for the city.
Fuqua, who used to chair the city's Economic Development Commission, said if elected, he would push to hire a director of economic development for the city. Fuqua clarified that that position would be "goal-oriented," ensuring that tax dollars aren't wasted and that the city sees a return on its investment into the position.
Additionally, Fuqua said he would like to see major improvements into the city's amount of green space.
"Our park system definitely needs attention... again, we focused on roadway and infrastructure issues for so long that we've gotten near debt ceiling," Fuqua said.
Fuqua explained that under the city's Unified Development Code (UDC), developments are required to allot a certain percentage of the development to green space. Under the current UDC, what can be considered green space was a bit too flexible in Fuqua's opinion, leading to situations where an unusable detention pond is credited as being green space in the eyes of the city.
"One of the things that I am currently investigating is in our UDC; each subdivision that gets built gets to take and use unusable green space or detention ponds and apply those on green space credits — we need to revisit that," Fuqua said.
"So if we could get to where we could hub a couple of developments together and they all unify this green space, we could make the investment into a park. We also have other opportunities [where] developers have granted the city land and we just haven't utilized it."
Fuqua is just one of nine candidates running for office in the upcoming city election, and will be running against Jim Hagaman to represent Spring Hill as mayor.
Early voting will be from March 19 to April 3, with Election Day landing on Thursday, April 8. The last day to register to vote is March 9 — click here to register to vote online.