Water Board Considers Landowner's Offer of $300K to Extend Sewer

The water board at its Feb. 16 meeting hears from County Attorney Robin Rogers, second from left. Continuing right and around the table are board members H.S. McKaig, Eddie Cantrell, Chairman Ted Rumley, Water Authority manager Doug Anderton, and board members Dr. Billy Pullen and Charles Breedlove.

The board of directors for the Dade Water and Sewer Authority, or so-called water board, heard a proposal from the Dade Industrial Development Authority, or IDA, at its meeting Friday morning: A private landholder will kick in $300,000 if the Water Authority agrees to extend the county sewer to his North Dade property.

The deal would be contingent, said County Attorney Robin Rogers, who is IDA’s legal advisor, on IDA putting a first-refusal option on the acreage. Then the landowner would pay the $300,000 to IDA and IDA would remit it to the water company.

The agreement is geared, explained Rogers and IDA executive Peter Cervelli, who also attended the Feb. 16 meeting, toward making the land more attractive to prospective industry. Rogers added that the current industrial park is essentially full, with small land tracts available but nothing roomy enough for a big manufacturing facility, and that Dade Water currently pipes water to the area. “The water lines are already there,” said Rogers.

Dade is a residually rural county still served by septic tanks except for Trenton proper and the Highway 299 area. The Highway 299 businesses, including several truck stop/gas stations as well as the Wildwood Lifestyle Center, are served by a sewer line that runs north to connect to the Chattanooga wastewater center, capable of handling about 500,000 gallons per day. As it stands, the existing users only take up about 50,000 of that, and Rogers and Cervelli explained that that’s why the proposed agreement specifies the prospective sewer expansion must be capable of handling 450,000 gallons.

“This agreement is trying to work within the existing constraints of the system,” said Cervelli (right).

But the discussion immediately leapt into the future, when more growth might require both more sewer and water capacity.

“There’s more in play here that would have to be thought out,” said Water Authority manager Doug Anderton. Are we talking just about this project? he asked. Or wouldn’t it be more prudent to make the expansion big enough to serve other clients as demand grew?

Eventually, said Ted Rumley, who in his capacity as county executive chairman also chairs the water board, everyone knows the sewer will have to go all the way through north Dade.

Nor was their speculation without a contemporary base: The area in question is the selfsame site that has figured in recent county discussions about a mystery manufacturer who would pay good wages to a substantial workforce, but would require 1.2 million gallons of water and the same sewer capacity to operate every day. In that case, asked board members, if they were going to expand, hadn’t they better plan on something more than 450,000 gallons?

Rumley had Cervelli verify that Dade’s Mystery Date manufacturer was still interested. “Yes,” said Cervelli, “but they’re also interested in probably half a dozen other locations. What this agreement does is plan for a more realistic possibility versus something highly unusual.”

The limited sewer expansion IDA is asking for now would entail building a new pump station and laying more sewer line to the location. Doug Anderton (left) could not estimate a cost for that without further research, but all agreed it would run a lot more than the landowner's $300,000. “It’s going to cost every bit of half a million,” said Rumley.

“So the Water Authority would get $300,000, but we have no clue what the cost is?” said board member Eddie Cantrell. “It seems to me we need more study on this.”

Which is what the board agreed to give it. Anderton said important factors he needed to find out included what a pump station would cost, whether the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) would allow the line to go on its right of way up Highway 11—“If DOT won’t allow it on the shoulder, then it’s going to be a terribly expensive line to lay”—and, given the engineering of moving sewage, whether it was even feasible to build a sewer line large enough to handle future demand. “I don’t know that you can upsize sewer line a lot larger than the capacity you want to run through it,” said Anderton.

Another factor would be Norfolk Southern, added another board member, H.A. McKaig, because the line would have to go under the railroad tracks at some point. “Any time you have to deal with the railroad, it’s a pain,” he reminded.

The water board decided to table the matter pending Anderton’s findings.

But other interesting tidbits that emerged from the discussion involved the nature of Dade’s inscrutable suitor. What sort of manufacturer requires 1.2 million gallons of water and sewage a day? It can’t be food processing, decided the board, (a) because the company claimed the output that would go into the sewage system would be virtually clean water; and (b) because, said Cervelli, the contract involved specifically excludes food processors. It must be electronics, board members speculated, because electronics manufacturers also go through a lot of water.

Another item that would figure if the unknown manufacturer does choose Dade is where to get all that water. Anderton said Dade Water could supply part itself and reminded the board that Tennessee American Water in Chattanooga can supply 500,000 gallons with the current emergency tie-in it has with Dade. Anderton said nothing is in writing but that he understands Tennessee American could supply up to a million gallons with a million-dollar infrastructure upgrade, money he thinks the company would be willing to part with in order to sell the million gallons a day. Anything more than that, he said, would be a different matter.

A similar situation exists with the Chattanooga sewage connection. Anything over the current 500,000 gallon capacity would require an $8 million upgrade—“Although they did admit at the meeting they needed an upgrade,” said Rumley, referring to some regional meeting he had attended in the unspecified past.

And in case Planet readers are, ahem, turning up their noses at all this discussion of the science of sewage, Trenton Mayor Alex Case (right), also attending the water board meeting, reminded all how vital it is to a city trying to attract new industries. “The first they ask you is how much sewer you can handle,” said Case.

In Trenton’s case, that’s a lot, said the mayor, because Trenton is nowhere near its 2-million-gallon-a-day capacity. Still, it’s working with good engineers to plan for growth. “We want somebody to look at the future,” he said.

Right now, said Case, Trenton’s sewer system is saving a lot of money from having installed variable-speed pump motors, but imperiled by the flushing public’s insistence on putting items into the toilet that shouldn’t go there—baby wipes and other cotton products that don’t deteriorate as fast as billed.

“It’s amazing what’s coming through our sewer system,” said Mayor Case.

In other business, after a brief executive session the water board voted to promote current office manager Sherri Walker (right) to assistant general manager.

The water board meets at 8 a.m. the third Friday of each month in the Dade Administrative Building. The next meeting is Friday, March 16.

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