SUD Applies for $1.32 Million in Grant Money

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the Sept. 20 meeting of the Sewanee Utility District Board of Commissioners, SUD manager Ben Beavers and President Charlie Smith reported on attending a recent Franklin County Commission meeting where they learned the county received clarification on American Recovery Plan (ARP) funding. SUD requested $1.32 million, with $234,000 coming from Franklin County as a match and $1,412,000 coming from ARP funds administered by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC).

There was much uncertainty about the initial announcement of $4.8 million in ARP funding available to Franklin County. “The grant money is for rural utilities,” Smith said. “There are only three in the county, and we are one of them.” The money will be divided proportional to number of customers served, with Winchester Springs receiving the largest amount, followed by SUD, then Belvidere.

Beavers said TDEC and the Tennessee Association of Utility Districts devised a metric to measure utilities’ deficiencies. “The money must be spent on deficient areas,” Beavers said. Most utilities deficiencies fell in the areas of asset management, unaccounted for water loss, and inflow and infiltration (I&I). SUD’s only deficiency was 61 percent I&I (i.e., storm water entering the sanitary sewer system which increases the cost of wastewater treatment.) SUD has four years to spend the grant money. SUD must contribute a match of $234,000. Once SUD reduces I&I below 50 percent, the remaining grant money will be available for other projects such as replacement of lead fittings in the drinking water system.

Beavers also brought to the board’s attention the need for an “inactive meter” policy. SUD has 30-40 inactive meters, Beavers said. Meters became inactive when a house burned, was torn down, the residents died, or the residents moved away. Sometimes the property owners notified SUD not to read the meter, as no one lived in the residence, in which case SUD turned the meter off. In a few instances, meters declared inactive and not being read had been turned back on by someone and showed usage when the property sold. The other problem noted by Beavers was SUD losing track of the inactive meters since meters showing no use eventually dropped off the system’s database.

“If there is a meter, they [the customers] need to pay a minimum bill of $13,” Beavers suggested. He also proposed if the customer opted to have the meter removed rather than paying the minimum bill fee, the customer would be assessed a tap fee for a new meter should they choose to reinstate service.

“Having a meter is a benefit if they sell the property,” commissioner Ronnie Hoosier said.

Smith pointed out electric utilities charged a minimum bill.

Beavers will determine the exact number of inactive meters. The board will take up the policy at the October meeting.

Reporting on the project to narrow Highway 41A, Beavers said the contractor charged SUD an additional $6,000 for manholes purchased and never installed. When the contractor did the change order revising the project design, the manholes were not needed, Beavers explained. SUD will do manhole rehabilitation in conjunction with addressing I&I and plans to use the manholes then.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation has decided not to close out the project until the end of the year, Beavers said. SUD will not know its final cost until then, delaying its request to the University for help paying for the water and sewer line relocation necessitated by the project.

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