SUD Record Voter Turnout: Evans Elected Commissioner
Thursday, January 25, 2018
by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer
In a neck-to-neck race with record voter turnout, the vote count at the Jan. 23 Sewanee Utility District (SUD) Commissioners’ meeting favored Paul Evans by a two-vote margin, electing Evans to a four-year term as SUD commissioner. Forty-four SUD customers cast ballots in the commissioner election, the highest voter turnout on record. In past commissioner elections, the highest voter turnout recorded was 28 votes. Evans will be sworn in at the next meeting on Feb. 27.
Turning to regular business, SUD Manager Ben Beavers presented a proposal from the engineering firm Robert G. Campbell and Associates for surveying, probing, design and related work in conjunction with replacing the deteriorating cast iron water lines on Florida and South Carolina avenues.
Beavers said the price quoted by the engineering firm, $20,000, was less than 8 percent of the estimated construction cost, the customary engineering rate. He cautioned the engineering probe on Florida Avenue might show more rock than expected. He identified three possible strategies for replacing the line depending on what the engineers’ assessment revealed: bursting the pipe and sliding a new pipe into the channel created, digging up the line and replacing it, or moving the line. Regardless of the technique, the line will be replaced to the far side of the customer meter and a new meter installed at SUD’s expense.
“We should have a pretty good idea what replacing the line will cost by the time we get to the bid process,” Beavers said. SUD hopes to combine the Florida and South Carolina projects, yielding an 8 to 15 percent savings, but Beavers will ask contractors to bid the jobs both separately and together.
The board approved the engineering proposal.
Commissioner Ronnie Hoosier raised a question regarding a SUD customer whose house burned. The customer moved to another home with well water, wanted to connect to SUD service, and asked if he could move the meter from the property at his former home site.
“The short answer is no,” Beavers said. When he first became manager, the board allowed a customer changing homes to move the meter “against my advice,” Beavers explained. “Once the meter is installed it becomes part of the property. That’s the generally accepted practice.”
No policy governs customer requests to move meters. Board President Charlie Smith said he tended to agree with Beavers, but a policy was needed.
“Choosing to move to a different house is different from being forced to move due to a fire,” Hoosier stressed, arguing for a policy that took into account natural disasters.
“People buying the property would expect a meter to be there because there’s a meter box,” observed Commissioner Art Hanson.
“I think we should discuss it more rather than just say ‘no,’” said Commissioner Randall Henley.
Beavers recommended that if the board approved the request, the customer should pay the tap fee cost of installing a meter, but waive the new service fees related to impact on the system since “the impact was already there.”
Beavers will research when the meter was installed and what fees were paid. Beavers will also consult with Tennessee Association of Utility Districts’ attorney Don Scholes to determine if any laws govern the practice of moving meters.
Pointing to the recent cold weather and frequent burst water lines, Beavers provided an overview of customers’ experience with SUD leak insurance through Dec. 31. From August when the policy went into effect, customers made 13 claims. The insurance company paid seven claims and denied two (a toilet running issue and a water heater leak); four claim are pending. No customers reported issues with the insurance company, Beavers said, and no customers opted out of carrying the policy. The insurance cost $1.30 per month with the average claim paid $240. SUD has incurred no cost for lost water. In the past, SUD absorbed half the cost of customer leaks.