Counties are authorized to construct and operate "urban-type public facilities." This term means:
…sanitary and storm sewer lines and facilities, plants for the collection, treatment, and disposal of sewage and waste matter, facilities and plants for the incineration or other disposal of garbage, trash, ashes, and other waste matter, and/or water supply and distribution lines, facilities, and plants, chemical pipelines and docks, and fire protection and emergency medical services." T.C.A. § 5-16-101.
Counties may operate these facilities directly through a county department, or they may create a board of public utilities. T.C.A. §§ 5-16-102–103. Cooperative undertakings with other governmental units, including "municipalities, towns, utility districts, and improvement districts within the county" are specifically authorized when "mutually advantageous." T.C.A. § 5-16-107.
All project plans must be submitted to a regional planning commission or, in the absence of such a commission, the planning commission of the largest city in the county. The planning commission receives the plans "for study and a written report" within 90 days or an extended period fixed by the county governing body. T.C.A. § 5-16-112.
Following the planning commission review, if a facility is to be located within five miles of any part of a city’s boundary, a resolution petitioning the city to provide the facility, together with a full report of the county’s plans (engineering and financial feasibility reports, etc.), must be presented to the city. The county may proceed if the city fails "to take appropriate action to provide a specified public facility or facilities in a specified area or areas" within 90 days. T.C.A. § 5-16-111.
Provision is made for transferring to a city rights, duties, property, assets, or liabilities in conjunction with such facilities in the event of annexation, including arbitration for disagreements. The statutory language is the same as that in T.C.A. § 6-51-111, T.C.A. § 5-16-110.