White Bluff considers proposal to turn sewer system over to Water Authority of Dickson County

The White Bluff Town Council agreed to split the cost of a study to determine whether it should turn its sewer system over to the Water Authority of Dickson County. Mayor Linda Hayes told the council Tuesday night that discussion has been going on for several years about the possibility, but she has been wanting answers to two questions. “The two main questions that I have wanted answered are: Is this the right thing to do for the citizens of the town of White Bluff; Is this the right thing to do for our wastewater system employees,” Hayes said. The mayor said she began discussions on the idea with previous authority Director Dr. Sandra Dudley and recently resumed those talks with current Executive Director Michael Adams. “I feel that the answer to both of these questions is a definite ‘yes,’” Hayes said. Hayes said for the employees, the water authority has assured her it will need the experience and knowledge of the town’s two wastewater facility employees and can offer a better salary and benefits package than White Bluff. As for the operation of the system, Hayes said the size and experience of the Water Authority of Dickson County enables it to operate the system more efficiently to better manage sewer rates. Hayes asked the council to approve moving forward with a 60-90-day assessment period in which authority employees will observe and monitor the operation of the White Bluff sewer system to determine its interest in assuming ownership. The authority’s board must approve the assessment period at its meeting Monday night. Following that assessment, both entities will consider whether to move ahead with transferring ownership of the White Bluff sewer system to the water authority. Hayes said White Bluff has been under a self-imposed moratorium on major expansions of the sewer system because of continuing infiltration and inflow problems and she knows of several planned commercial and residential developments that could be held up without sewer system improvements. Hayes said she began talking with Dudley 3-4 years ago, but then White Bluff got a grant for INI improvements and the discussions stopped. She said she re-started them with Adams about eight months ago to determine if the change would benefit the 1,200 customers of the White Bluff system. The authority already provides water to White Bluff residents and handles billing services for the sewer operation. Adams asked the council to split the cost of an engineering assessment that will be part of that review with an estimated cost of $28,000. Projects Administrator Jeff Martin said $15,000 is included in the town’s 2014-15 sewer system budget proposal for its projected share of the study. The council voted to move ahead with the assessment, with the understanding that it is not a commitment to the transfer but only to provide information for making that decision in the months ahead. Councilwoman Stephanie Murrell expressed concern about other town services that are located on the sewer plant property, specifically animal control and a street department facility. Hayes said the authority would work with the town to provide ample time to relocate those facilities if the transfer of ownership takes place. If the water authority board approves it Monday night, Hayes said the assessment will begin Tuesday.