Callis head shot

The City of Portland received a letter Monday from TDEC that some of the sewer restrictions that have been placed on the city since 2013 restrictions have been lifted.

The best news in that matter is that the city has been given the go-ahead for more than 2,400 sewer taps to be issued, including no restrictions in the area surrounding the new I-65 interchange at Exit 121.

Mayor Mike Callis made the announcement at Friday’s Coffee & Conversation gathering at The Farmers Bank.

“The City of Portland has been struggling for the last several years when it comes to the sewer system. These guys have worked hard. Our employees have worked hard,” Callis said. “A year ago, we had zero taps available. Monday, we got an official letter that they gave us 2,400-plus taps for our community.”

Having no restrictions on the area around the new interstate exit is the biggest news for the city, according to the mayor. It means that much of the planned investment and growth there can now be green-lighted without the fear of sewer limitations and restrictions from TDEC.

“They also gave us zero restrictions for an entire section around Exit 121. That’s big news for us. We’ve got new investment out there. We’ve got more investment that’s looking. That’s a place where you’re probably going to see some hotels popping up. That’s big for our community,” Callis said.

After TDEC intervened seven years ago, the city took the initiative to begin to make the necessary sewer plant upgrades and improvements in different phases. The city has completed phase one of the project, and is set soon to approve a bond measure to finance the second phase of the operation, which will help to expand the sewer plant’s capacity.

“We’ve done this work, because our people had to pay increased sewer rates. We hated to do that, but we had to. We’re fixing to go out to a multi-million dollar bond issue that will be directly for phase two of our plant,” Callis said. “The prices that they have estimated have already gone up. We’ve been telling everybody for the last couple of years, $7-to-$9 million for phase two of the plant. Now, they’re telling me $10-to-$11 million. Part of that is the cost of increased construction in the area, the premium price of materials and the premium price on all the work that’s going on. Now that the tornadoes have hit our area, it’s finding a construction company in the type of manner who can do this kind of work is going to be difficult. But it’s a challenge we’ll get through.”

Callis said that getting through phase two of the project will help the city be prepared for the growth that is coming in the near future.

“We’ll double the capacity of our sewer plant in the city of Portland. We’re going to put millions of dollars into the ground and we’re to restructure this thing, and we will be better for it,” the mayor said. “Growth is coming our way, and we’ve got to be prepared. Right now, with these 2,400 taps, we have more 1,000 already requested. That’s growth that we’re realizing. There’s a lot of overflow from Nashville, Hendersonville, Gallatin that’s coming to us. They want what we have, but we’ve got to make sure we plan adequately.”

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