Members of the Water Board got a preliminary look at a report on what it would take to extend service to areas of Trousdale County currently without water.
At the board’s Oct. 26 meeting, Evan White with Mid-Tenn Engineering spoke to the group about the feasibility study, which was commissioned earlier this year and is still being worked upon. A final report could be bready by the board’s November meeting.
White said preliminary indications were that extending services would, based on current populations, only pick up 96 customers with an estimated 31.7 miles of new water lines laid down at an overall cost of $9.43 million. As part of the study once completed, roads without service will be ranked in order of cost-effectiveness.
“Some of those would also require booster pumps at $50,000 to $75,000,” White said. “None of the roads on this list is a return on your investment, so nothing is feasible from a business standpoint. You will not make your money back; it would be more serving the folks in your county.”
At a previous meeting, County Mayor Stephen Chambers had noted that the state comptroller’s office would probably not look favorably on investing money into projects that would not provide a return on that investment.
The board asked that the final study be limited to county-maintained roads and not include private roads that might have only one or two homes.
“You’re going to get into all sort of easement issues,” board member Dwight Jewell said of private roads. “I’m not saying we shouldn’t do them, but that would probably be at a later date once the public roads are taken care of.”
White added that the possibility of future development could not be incorporated into the feasibility study. The Water Board had previously noted that some areas without current water service were much more likely to be developed if service were available.
Board member Mark White suggested that the final list could be looked at on a case-by-case basis with an eye toward future development possibilities, even if they were not included in the study itself.
“I don’t know that the state of Tennessee is the best judge as to what does or does not make money,” he said. “If nothing else, we can look people in the eye and say, ‘It’s going to cost $4 million to put water down your road. Do you want a $200 water bill?’ ”
Jewell added that looking at current population densities and land that were also divided into tracts might be a possibility.
“I think that would be a way to bridge the gap between what exists and what probably will exist,” he said.
The American Rescue Plan relief plan passed by Congress earlier this year will have significant federal money for water, and could potentially be part of any future plans, Evan White noted. The Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation has already said it intends to make almost $1 billion available in grants to communities for eligible water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure projects.
Mark White said he felt the board should examine the possibility of incremental rate hikes with an eye toward using such funds to address targeted areas.
“We need to entertain the idea of managed increases over the next several years; as a board rank what makes the most sense and what has the most potential for development,” he said. “Have a plan to pay for it ourselves rather than depend on Uncle Sam… This would be a massive undertaking but it’s the right direction.”
“I’ve thought for a long time we needed to have a bigger discussion about rate increases of some sort, if nothing else to keep up with inflation,” added board member Todd Webber.
General Manager Tommy McFarland also noted that Trousdale does not have a commercial rate of customers and that could also be a future possibility.
Reach Chris Gregory at 615-450-5756 or email@example.com.