BY LAUREN HENRY
The Greeneville Water Commission voted to approve an application for an Economic Development Administration (EDA) Disaster Relief grant of about $2.4 million to fund improvements to the Water Commission's intake structure.
The grant has not been awarded but the commission approved the application, saying they will match the grant with $910,000 if it is awarded.
"We can use it to make some much needed repairs at the river," said Eric Frye, assistant water superintendent.
He said those improvements will include extra screens, more intakes, and more redundancy on the intake on the Nolichucky River.
The Greeneville Water Commission uses the Nolichucky River as its water source.
Frye said the repairs are needed and although the match is significant, they are repairs that would have to be made in the future anyway.
Part of the repairs include an addition onto the original intake structure installed in the 1990s that did not meet specifications. The pump was the wrong size for the wet well in the pump house.
"It was not designed correctly when it was built," he said.
"The pump is just not getting enough water," said Laura White, Greeneville Water Commission superintendent.
Frye said the incorrect design resulted in lawsuits in the early 1990s, but the problem still exists and costs about $50,000 every time the pump goes down.
The money from the federal grant is a part of money for disaster relief because of the 2011 tornadoes.
The debris at the river makes the commission eligible for the funds.
WAGGONER IS OPPOSED
The approval passed but not without disagreement, with Commissioner Joe Waggoner voted against the measure.
His reasoning was that because the commission was originally given documentation that listed an incorrect number for the local match, reading $130,000.
He did not feel comfortable voting for the signing for the much greater local match.
The commission went ahead and approved the application with the understanding that if the repairs turn out to be too costly, they will refuse the grant.
The Commission rejected White's recommendation that they rasie the Christmas bonus from $150 to $250. White said that with less employees she felt that the Water Department could afford the larger gift.
However, Waggoner disagreed.
"We gave a $150 last year and they just got a raise, and I think $150 is generous," he said.
In September the commission did vote for a two percent raise for the 46 full-time employees of the Greeneville Water Department.
"I think if, realistically, we can afford to give them that this year I'd like to do that, but ... I don't want to do it if it's going to put a strain on us," said Chairman Brandon Hull.
"With the reducation in the payroll -- less employees -- if we gave $250 it would be a little over $4,000 expense more than last year," said Controller Kim Bowers.
"I say we better stay at the $150 and hope for a better year next year," Hull said.
The commission voted that the Christmas bonus remain at $150.
The commission also heard from Sherwin Speight, with Public Works Equipment and Supply, Inc. about a truck the commission is considering purchasing. The Vactor 2100 is a sewer combination truck, which can be used to clean sewer piping.
Currently, the water commission uses a contracting service to clean sewers.
White, who had seen a demonstration of the truck earlier, was impressed with the technology. She said that the truck would be useful for sanitary overflow prevention and response.
The commission made no decision but is still looking into other options, including attempting to obtain a used, rather than new, truck.
Changes are being made to the Water Department employee handbook.
White provided the commission with the various legal verbage, workers compensation and other changes at the meeting.
The commissioners will have the opportunity to review the changes and discuss it at the next meeting.
White took part of the meeting to publicly thank water commission employees for their response to the water leak that occurred last week on the Asheville Highway.
"I really think they did an awesome job," she said.
That water line could not be reached after digging 30 feet deep, so the water commission dug a new line instead.