Thursday, August 16, 2012

August 16, 2012 Whitesburg City-County Sewer Contract Goes Through County Finance Committee

On Monday, the Hamblen County Finance Committee approved a city-county contract on the proposed extension of the city sewer to 20+ customers in Whitesburg.

The contract provides that the county will build sewer lines and provide sewer taps and pumps for low-income grant-eligible individuals through grant funds and county matching funds. At the end of construction, almost everything will be transferred to city ownership and operation.  [The pumps for each house will apparently be owned by and the responsibility of the customer.]

Despite the City sewer being in a financial mess and under a multi-year commissioner's order, the City is discounting its "outside" tap fee from $5000 to $2500 by contract. By contract, the County is guaranteeing the use of county funds to pay the City a minimum sewer fee if the number of customers hooked up drops below 9.

Questions about the county guaranteeing payment of minimum sewer fees to the city were asked of Mayor Brittain but not specifically answered. City Finance Director Larry Clark was present and discussed financial aspects of the sewer extension.

Part I (Brittain explains the history of the CDBG grant, the budget, the original gravity design, the change to a pump design, and the county guarantee to pay sewer fees if fewer than nine customers pay their sewer bill.  Brittain: Russellville-Whitesburg Utility District can cut off water to Rv-Wb water customers who don't pay Morristown's sewer bill but the utility district has not done so in the past. Everybody in the grant area understands the total costs. Commissioner Howard Shipley mentions that sewer crossed a constituent's property and he was able to hook up free of charge but with huge and ever-increasing city sewer rates that individual doesn't recommend that anyone hook up.)

Part II (Costs. Pumps. Original Budget $485,000. 75%-25% match. Total now is $426,000.  Brittain: You could pass a resolution encouraging Rv-Wb Utility District to cut off water to those Wb grant customers who don't pay the City's sewer fee. Brittain: I appoint Rv-Wb Board. I can appoint only those who agree to cut off the water if the sewer bill is not paid. Commissioner Larry Carter: If they don't pay it, is it legal for us to pay the bill? Brittain: There is...a statute...I was looking at it this morning...(but) I don't know if it addresses the guarantee. It addresses cities and counties working together. City Finance Director Larry Clark: Nine customers required to cover city costs/depreciation.)

Part III (Discussion of shale soil and Whitesburg School sewer connection.  County Commissioner/ City Councilman Paul LeBel: "I see no benefit to the City... in taking these people in." More on the "county guarantee." City Finance Director Larry Clark: Outside sewer tap fee is $5000. Depreciation. "It's not right for other ratepayers to subsidize what is being added on to the system." Contract passes with guarantee that county will pay minimum sewer bill if customers drop below nine.  A resolution proposed by Paul LeBel also passes and encourages Rv-Wb Utility District to cut off water to Rv-Wb customers who don't pay their Morristown sewer bill.)        

No comments: