BY SARAH GREGORY
The Greeneville Water Commission on Tuesday approved submission of an application for 50/50 matching-grant funding for upgrades at the department's river intake.
Commissioners also approved a bid award for the ongoing screen project at the wastewater treatment plant and a measure to request bids for painting sewer pump stations.
In addition, commissioners heard a report on a recent audit of the Water Department.
A measure was approved that will allow the Water Department to apply for matching grant funding for improvements at the river intake, which is the Water Department's "bread and butter," according to Superintendent Laura White.
"It's either do it now or do it later," she added. "I think it's something we really need to take care of."
The grant application comes after an earlier grant application with a required local match of $910,000 was not accepted by the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), a bureau of the United States Department of Commerce.
That application was apparently not accepted because of the timing of the submission.
White noted that the application was submitted on the deadline day and was not accepted by EDA.
The total cost of improvements at the river intake is expected to be $2.4 million.
The grant for which the Water Department will now apply is a "50/50 matching" grant, meaning the department would be responsible for a total of $1.2 million toward the cost of the project.
REASON FOR GRANT
"I'd rather hold off, myself," Commissioner Joe Waggoner commented. "I don't really want to spend a million dollars."
Commissioner Johnny Honeycutt asked, "How soon does this project need to be done, realistically?"
White responded, "We're just not operating as efficiently as we can and should."
Frye explained that the current system of pumps at the river intake was designed in the 1960s, a time when Greeneville water customers used approximately four-million gallons of water per day.
Today, he said, the Water Department pumps double that amount -- an average of eight-million gallons per day.
"If we put US Nitrogen [a major industry and water customer beginning operations in early 2014] on line, we're going to be using 12 million gallons per day," Frye said.
He cited what he said is the need to increase the Water Department's ability to pump larger quantities of water more efficiently to support future industrial growth in the area.
Frye also noted the limitations of the current system during times of flooding, since current filtration screens at the intake station do not have the capacity to filter extra debris that makes its way into the river during high water.
In those flooding situations, such as Greene County experienced earlier this month when heavy continuous rains saturated the area, pump operations at the river have to be shut down because the pumps take in water faster than the screens which filter debris -- such as sticks or trash that float down river -- can handle the debris.
When pump operations at the river intake cease, the Water Department must rely on water held in the reservoir to supply customers.
"They had to shut down and depend on the reservoir at the plant for a couple of days -- until they could get the water to recede and clean out the intake structure," White explained.
Frye told commissioners that problems can occur when the department is relying on its reservoir, as it takes time to replenish the reserved supply.
Honeycutt asked Frye, "The importance of doing this now, [rated on a scale of] one to ten -- ten being the most [important] -- what would it be?"
"Ten," Frye responded. "If we don't get water from the river, we don't send water to people's homes. It starts there."
White highlighted the importance of pumping capacity in recruiting new industry to the area.
She noted that she receives calls from industries scouting new locations asking what capacities the Water Department is capable of supplying.
"We have to be able to tell them, 'We can get you that 70,000 gallons a day' or whatever is needed," she commented, "but we want to be sure that we can get it there."
A motion was made by Honeycutt with a second from Commission Chair Brandon Hull to allow the Water Department to submit the grant application.
The measure passed, 2-1, with Waggoner voting against it.
The matter will come before the commission again, as action Tuesday allows only for submission of the grant application.
All other aspects of the project, such as the bidding and construction process, will require further commission action.
Commissioners unanimously approved a $396,450 bid from J.S. Haren Company for the construction phase of the ongoing screen project at the wastewater treatment plant.
That project started in 2011.
The bid amount is for the cost of the two screens, their installation, and construction related to them.
White and Water Department Engineer Eric Frye noted that the cost was about $20,000 -- approximately 20 percent less -- than they had estimated.
A total of five companies submitted bids for the project; however, none of the companies is based in Greene County.
Commissioners discussed several changes to the Water Department's employee manual, which is currently under revision.
Changes were discussed in wording related to holidays, uniforms, schedule of pay raises, safety incentives, personnel files, and disciplinary actions.
Revisions continue to be made to the document, which will be distributed to Water Department employees.
FAVORABLE AUDIT REPORT
Prior to taking action on agenda items, commissioners heard a report on a recent audit of the past fiscal year performed by Rodefer Moss & Co, PLLC.
Rodefer Moss & Co. reported an "unqualified" positive opinion for Water Department finances -- the most favorable opinion possible for an audit.
The audit resulted in no findings, no indications of any inappropriate use of funds or equipment, and no material weaknesses in financial controls in place at the Water Department.
At the meeting's start, White recognized and presented a plaque to Water Department employee Rickey Trantham, who retired recently after 40 years of service.