​SUD to Replace Aging Water Lines

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the June 26 meeting, the Board of Commissioners of the Sewanee Utility District approved a $666,835 bid from Danson Construction to replace aging, constricted water lines on South and North Carolina Avenues, Clara’s Point Road, and Florida Avenue. The restoration will increase customer water flows and address leaks. SUD considered doing the three segments of the restoration during a 3-year period. Concerns about increasing costs prompted the board to recommend proceeding with all three phases in 2018.
SUD has sufficient cash on hand to complete the project in 2018, although SUD will show a loss for the year. The firm under contract to review SUD’s financial transactions advised SUD manager Ben Beavers the utility should maintain cash reserves equal to a year’s operating expenses.
“We have two years in reserve,” Beavers said. “We could spend $800,000 and maintain the recommended cash on hand.”
Beavers flagged the South and North Carolina segment as a priority, with South Carolina having the worst constriction and highest leak potential. “The lines were installed in the 1920s,” Beavers said.
The South and North Carolina replacement will also be the most disruptive to the University. The Florida segment will have the least impact. The contractor expects to begin in two weeks and to complete the project in 90 days.
All replaced lines will be upgraded from six inches to eight inches. The contractor’s per linear foot charge is slightly higher than anticipated. Beavers attributed the higher cost to the presence of underground rock in the Florida Avenue area.
The board discussed just doing the South and North Carolina portion of the project this year. Beavers estimated the cost for the Florida Avenue segment would come in $3,500-$4,000 higher if SUD rebid the project in two years.
The replacement of aging water lines on Tennessee Avenue will be deferred for three years. The larger 10-inch line has less constriction and gives “very few problems,” Beavers noted.
The lowest of three bidders, Danson Construction based in Sparta, Tenn., came highly recommended by both large contractors and small utilities. Danson completed jobs “on budget and on time” according to the sources Beavers consulted.
Beavers said his only concern about undertaking the entire project in 2018 was a possible $40,000 increase in operating expenses for replacing the pumps at the Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP). In the past several months, the WWTP began experiencing problems from disposable personal care towelettes, clogging the pumps and inhibiting spraying.
“The pumps are only operating at 40 percent capacity,” Beavers cautioned. He will investigate purchasing finer screens to filter out the towelettes.
Reporting on the Midway pressure boosting station, which recently went into service, Beavers said no leaks or complaints were reported. Customers observed occasional pressure fluctuation, which Beavers attributed to the pump cutting on and off.
Board President Charlie Smith thanked Paul Cross and the Cross family for their work and cooperation in facilitating the Midway easement process.
Bringing a customer request to the board, Beavers said the customer wanted SUD to take responsibility for repairs on the customer side of the meter or at the least to inspect repairs that the homeowner’s contractor performs. SUD policy states leaks and repairs on the customer’s side of the meter are the customer’s responsibility. The board saw no reason to add an inspection clause or otherwise alter the policy.
There are no plumbing codes in Franklin County that allow for water line inspection, Beavers pointed out.
Updating the board on the SUD employee retirement plan change, Beavers said the transfer fee from the former provider was less than expected, $2,300 instead of $9,000. At the May meeting, the board agreed to pay the fee on the employees’ behalf. The new plan gives employees more options, has far lower maintenance costs, and assigns fiduciary responsibility to the provider rather than the board.
The board meets next on July 24.