SUD: Asset Value Hurdles, Meter Testing, ARPA

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the July 20 meeting of the Sewanee Utility District Board of Commissioners, manager Ben Beavers introduced a discussion about the difficulty in assigning asset values for planning purposes. Beavers also updated the board on large meter testing results and SUD’s application for American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.

In an earlier long-range planning discussion, Commissioner Ronnie Hoosier suggested using the asset list to predict what would need replaced when. Beavers printed the list, but after review decided “The list won’t serve as a very good template,” he told the board. Many entries on the list pre-date Beavers’ tenure as manager. Listed water mains are found by cost but not location, offering no information on which main the entry refers to. Beavers also gave the example of a section of sewer pipe that cost $10 section of sewer pipe that burst costing $100. “How do we restate the value of an asset?” Beavers asked. A 1992 entry listed the cost of the dams as $34,000. “The dams are older than that,” Beavers said, “And we all know they cost more than that. What does that [figure] mean?” Taking up the question of depreciated items, Beavers asked, “If it’s fully depreciated, do we have to assign a value for it when obviously there is no salvage value?”

Beavers proposed consolidating items into categories, then figuring a value for each category. “The trouble is there are some things that don’t fit into a merger category,” Beavers said. Beavers set a goal for the year of devising a workable system and list.

Turning to a related project, Beavers updated the board on the results of large meter testing. Beavers hoped the testing would help identify unaccounted for water loss (water produced at the plant, but not registering as sold on customer meters). The large meters “are not the source of our unaccounted for water problem,” Beavers said. The worst performing meter was 98.7 percent accurate.

Next, Beavers plans to test residential meters with total flow ranges from 10,000 to 3 million gallons of water to determine how wear affects meter accuracy. SUD replaced all residential meters eight years ago. The meter reading electronics have a projected life of 12-15 years; the batteries are guaranteed for 10 years. Beavers said when the meters are replaced again, the new technology will be “branched and the nexus of the entire thing will be right here [in the office]. If someone gets a leak, it pops up on the computer instantly.”

Beavers also updated the board on his request for ARPA funds. Marion County will receive $5.6 million, and Franklin County will receive $8.2 million. The funds are distributed to counties based on their population. “We should get a share of that money based on the population we serve,” Beavers said. Federal guidelines state the acceptable use of the money includes water, sewer, and fiber infrastructure. SUD requested money from the county mayors for cyber security, water security and sewer upgrades. Marion County replied they will use their ARPA allocation to extend water service to underserved areas rather than projects SUD identified.

Board President Charlie Smith said he talked with Franklin County Mayor David Alexander about SUD receiving ARPA funds and “he [Alexander] was fairly positive about it.”

“It’s the best chance we’ve had at receiving grant money since I’ve been here,” Beavers said.

The SUD board meets at the district office on the third Tuesday of each month at 5 p.m.