City Council Hears Many Ways City Responded To Water Main Break

Wednesday, September 18, 2019 - by Gail Perry

In addition to regular business, the Chattanooga City Council heard several special presentations at the agenda meeting on Tuesday. Chief Operating Officer Maura Sullivan gave a report about the city’s response during the past weekend when Tennessee American Water experienced a water main break creating an emergency situation in the city. The directives came from Mayor Andy Berke, she said.

Within one-hour tanker firetrucks were placed throughout the city, thanks to the Tri-State mutual aid agreement Chattanooga is participating in. “That agreement paid off,” said Ms. Sullivan.

Multiple teams from all over East Tennessee were ready to help. TVA loaned a 5,000-gallon pump to pull water out of the river for fire fighting and to keep the chillers working that are used at the Tennessee Aquarium and area hospitals for air conditioning and cooling. 

Before lunch, Chattanooga had provided equipment to Tennessee American Water and started distributing bottled water and port-a-potties. Over four days, 500,000 bottles of water were given out. Volunteers helped and made sure water got to shut-ins and the homeless. Housing units were monitored for needs.

Over 90 Chattanooga police officers and 20 cadets volunteered in the massive operation, said Ms. Sullivan. The public works department continued to collect water to fill tanker trucks. The news media kept the public informed. Each city department contributed to the effort.

“I’m very proud of the work done by city government and applaud their work,” said Ms. Sullivan. 

Around 2010 a water system interconnectivity study was done in Chattanooga, said Councilwoman Carol Berz. The city wants to assure that water is available at all times. Tennessee American Water predicted that we would need alternatives. Someone dropped the ball and nothing was done. 

Councilman Russell Gilbert said what happened was tragic, but it showed that we were ready for it. All the training and planning that has been done paid off, said Ms. Sullivan.

“Hats off to everybody who brought forth their best. Government really stepped up,” said Councilman Darrin Ledford, "as well as private businesses. Juice and beverage companies kept donating. Donations came from Coke, Tennessee American Water and Tennessee Emergency Management among the many who just showed up and brought water."

The Council also was given an update to the fire and police pension fund by board member Chris Hopkins. For the quarter he said there is a 3.1 percent increase. There are 862 active participants, a nine percent increase, and 791 retirees and beneficiaries participating in the fund, which is up 15 percent. 

He said that a consultant for the pension fund has been changed, which has proven to be a good move. Steps are being taken to assure there is no fraudulent activity. And after losing 30 percent of its value during the recession of 2008, he said preparations are being made in a different manor. “I think we are much better prepared for the inevitable downturn,” said Mr. Hopkins.

City Finance Officer Daisy Madison gave a General Bond Obligations report for the Council, explaining the bond process beginning with what a municipal bond is, the process of issuing them, who buys them, the transaction participants and criteria used for rating. Chattanooga’s bond rating is AAA making them very desirable.

At the Council agenda session on Oct. 8, members of the commission will sit in on a bond sales event and observe but not participate. This will be a good thing four us to learn, said Councilwoman Berz.  



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