SUD Undertakes Capital Project Review
Thursday, September 28, 2017
Two Commissioners to be Elected
by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer
At the Sept. 26 meeting of the Board of Commissioners of the Sewanee Utility District of Franklin and Marion Counties, SUD manager Ben Beavers asked the board to approve a Capital Project Planning analysis and sought the board’s input on how best to address the need for a Water and Sewer Replacement Fund.
Beavers’ recently contacted the University’s Provost’s Office to set up a meeting assessing the University’s plans for the next five to 10 years. Of particular concern to SUD is how implementing the Sewanee Village plan will impact water and sewer needs.
“Moving the lines will require re-engineering,” Beavers said. The University would be responsible for the cost.
Beavers will also collect long-term planning information from St. Andrew’s-Sewanee School (SAS) and St. Mary’s. He proposed SUD retain the engineering firm Robert Campbell and Associates (RCA), cost $3,000, to analyze the data from the University, SAS and St. Mary’s, and assist SUD with Capital Project Planning. RCA would weigh the pros and cons of proposed projects, identify priorities, and prepare bid proposals.
The board approved Beavers’ request.
Revisiting a customer’s question about the surcharge appearing on customer bills, Beavers said the charge was actually a Water and Sewer Replacement Fund fee.
The board implemented the fee in 2008, Beavers explained. The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) had cited SUD for a Wastewater Treatment Plant violation. TDEC required SUD to designate funds for water resource repair. Prior to that time, SUD had invested very little in infrastructure.
The fee is based on customer consumption, with water and sewer charges calculated separately. Non-sewer customers do not pay the sewer portion of the fee.
In 2009, the consulting firm Raftelis Financials, Inc. recommended raising the fee to $.68/kgal for water and $.70/kgal for sewer. SUD implemented the suggested increase in 2010. The rate has not changed since then.
“It’s money well spent,” Beavers stressed. In a typical year, SUD spends more on water resource repair than the fee generates. The alternative would be to eliminate the fee and raise rates, Beavers said, designating a percentage of revenue for water resource repair.
“I like keeping it neat,” Commissioner Karen Singer said, recommending SUD continue to access a fee specifically designated for water resource repair.
SUD Board President Charlie Smith agreed. “I don’t think we need to do anything.”
Beavers will revise the language on customer bills to more clearly indicate the reason for the charge.
Two commissioner seats will come open for election in January. Commissioner Singer is term limited and cannot run again. Commissioner Randall Henley will seek reelection.
Any SUD customer can serve as a commissioner. The board is charged with nominating three candidates for each open seat. Customers interested in serving should contact Beavers at (931) 598-5611. Prospective candidates can also self-nominate by submitting a petition signed by 10 SUD customers. The deadline for submitting nominating petitions is Jan. 2. Voting will take place from Jan. 2 through Jan. 23, the first SUD meeting of the new year.
A Sewanee Summit landowner addressed the board requesting water service.
“The lot is 825 feet down the road from the existing main,” Beavers said. The Sewanee Summit development is located below the University Forestry Cabin.
“We can’t extend the line for a single customer,” Smith explained.
In the past, SUD ran miles of line in the Jump Off area anticipating development that never occurred, Beavers said.
Pointing to an option for the landowner, Beavers cited the example of Lake Eva area residents who joined together to pay for water service. He estimated materials for the Sewanee Summit project would cost $500, but due to the limestone rock base, trenching work would cost $5-$10 per foot.
The landowner also spoke with the Decherd water utility which quoted a lower price, but he expressed concerns about low water pressure from water traveling uphill.
The SUD board meets next on Oct. 24