County Mayor Jim Coppinger on Wednesday urged the board of the Hamilton County Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority (WWTA) to look at long term solutions to the area’s problems.
He said that WWTA is currently working with the city of Chattanooga for a short term fix, but said, "We would be remiss not to look to the future." Since the 2010 census, the area has grown by 25,000 and he said hopefully that trend will continue because growth reduces taxes for all, but growth needs infrastructure.
"The EPA could care less about growth," he said, "they just want the problem of overflows fixed as soon as possible."
County Mayor Coppinger said he sees the future of WWTA as long term and it that will impact this area into the future. He said the WWTA is working in cooperation with Chattanooga to upgrade the sewer system as well as having agreements with six surrounding towns. He said all the communities involved have a stake in the success of upgrading the area sewers and all want to work together so that groups in the future do not have to go through what is happening now. "It impacts all of us," he said. While thanking the board members, he said that he supports what this board does.
“Anybody who thinks you can grow without a sewer plan isn’t thinking,” responded Dick Gee, vice chairman of the board.
Commissioner Doug Jones said, “This is Chattanooga’s Katrina.” One cause for what happened in New Orleans was because the city did not spend money to upgrade the levies. He applauded County Mayor Coppinger for standing strong without a “political spin.” "This is probably the biggest and most important thing the area is facing," he said while thanking tjhe county mayor.
The WWTA Board approved four resolutions unanimously for work to upgrade the sewer system. A contract with SAK Construction for $3,441,000 was authorized for a major rehabilitation project in Lookout Mountain, Tn. to address overflows.
Also approved was an agreement to upgrade a pumping station in Ooltewah for $175,875. And professional services were authorized in the amount of $112,000 for improvements at the Soddy Daisy Industrial Park. A vote passed to contract for auditing services for a period of five years for the amount of $23,000 annually.
Interim Executive Director Mike Patrick announced that he has met with Dean Morehouse, president of North Hamilton County United for Responsible Growth. He also is a member of the committee that was formed to work alongside the WWTA to identify a location for a new sewage plant in Ooltewah. A second meeting with the committee is planned for early next week.
Graphs were shown to the commissioners that illustrated sewer billing in January for Tennessee American Water customers totaled $972,255 and that the collection rate was 97.4 percent. The amount of $210,020 is in arrears by four months.
Officials from the Hamilton County WWTA made comments regarding the Chattanooga City Council meeting and yesterday’s Hamilton County Commission meeting. WWTA Interim Executive Director Michael Patrick said, “Our focus remains on concluding negotiations with the EPA and the consent decree which we anticipate over the coming months. Once the consent decree is entered, we will be following those guidelines to continue to serve our customers both now and well into the future. Our mission is to do what is in the best interest of our customers in the unincorporated parts of the county along with the municipalities who’ve joined the WWTA. We will continue to do all we can to meet that mission and we are encouraged by the conversations that are occurring among all of the parties involved.”