SUD’s Waiting-for-a-Decision Plans

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

Sewanee Utility District manager Ben Beavers learned at a recent Franklin County Finance Committee meeting that SUD would not receive a decision on its request for American Recovery Plan (ARP) funds until the new administration took office following the August county commission and mayoral elections. At the June 21 SUD Board of Commissioners meeting, the board and Beavers strategized on how to proceed.

“I’ve asked for a couple small things,” Beavers said. “The big thing is the waterline replacement. What we might consider doing is purchasing the smaller items and ask for the whole thing on the waterline replacement project.” SUD already purchased one request item, variable speed drives to cut power consumption at the Water Treatment Plant. SUD is researching the cost of another request item, a bar screen to filter out disposable wipes and face masks which clog and damage sewage pumps and create a health hazard for employees tasked with repair.

Beavers questioned the wisdom of waiting for ARP funding to purchase the bar screen. “What are the consequences in the meantime to our operations?” he asked.

SUD President Charlie Smith agreed with Beavers about “doing projects we’ve got to do, that we know we’ve got to do, out of pocket.”

Beavers pointed out SUD has two to three years to comply with the federal law to identify waterlines with lead fittings and longer still to do the actual waterline replacement. SUD only has 25,000 feet of cast-iron pipe which may have lead fittings. To Beavers knowledge SUD never had lead service lines.

Beavers said the hydro-excavator SUD requested ARP funding to buy would be used for the waterline replacement project. He suggested other water utilities might want to join with SUD for a cost-share purchase.

Commissioner Johnny Hughes brought a question to the board raised by his constituents: given the push for low-income housing in Sewanee, would SUD offer a lower tap fee for low-income builders? “SUD’s policy has always been everybody pays the same amount,” Beavers said. “Even when selling water to Monteagle during the drought, we had to sell it at the same rate,” said Commissioner Doug Cameron. Beavers commented that the tap fee might increase “depending on the University’s response to our request for reimbursement on the highway project.”

Updating the board on the lagoon’s inspection, Beavers said, “There are a few issues. Nothing unexpected or catastrophic. The biggest thing is to get the vegetation off the dams so the sunlight can get to them and dry them out. We have to do [vegetation control] by hand, because it’s so wet.” The dampness was caused by seepage and shade from vegetation and large trees, Beavers explained. Smith proposed some tree cutting. Beavers concurred. He observed SUD employees would likely welcome firewood from the trees and in the past SUD had tree removal done at no cost in exchange for the timber.

Beavers encourage the board to consider updating the 2008 long range plan created when the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation cited SUD for a spray fields runoff violation. “Creating a plan made us examine our operations and decide where we wanted to go and how to get there,” Beavers said. The plan looked at the entire district and how many people the water plant and wastewater treatment plant could support. At present, SUD has roughly 200 more customers than projected. “A lot of the footwork [for the long range plan] has already been done,” Beavers said. “We would just need to update the data.”

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