Questions On Walker County $45 Million Water Improvement Plan - And Response

Thursday, October 28, 2021
Walker County government put out a press release on Tuesday announcing that Walker County Water and Sewerage Authority (WCWSA) had requested that the county use $5 million of its American Rescue Plan stimulus funds to invest in a $45 million improvement plan recently developed by WCWSA. Walker County was allocated a little more than $13 million from the American Recovery Plan Act passed earlier this year. 

The release also states that WCWSA will provide $20 million and will seek an additional $20 million in state stimulus funds.  The release does not mention that the deadline for applications for those funds is Oct.

31 at 9 p.m. 


Has the application been submitted? If so, does it rely on the board of commissioners approving the $5 million allocation tonight? If that is the case why wasn't this presented to the public and the board sooner to allow for proper deliberation and public awareness?


The $5 million allocation from the county is on the agenda tonight, Thursday, Oct. 28. My guess is this amount will serve as local matching funds as part of the application that is due Sunday at 9 p.m. 


Has anyone seen this $45 million improvement plan? Given this was just announced on Tuesday the prudent move is to table any consideration of investing in this plan until it can be evaluated by the public. 


In July 2019 Chattanooga filed a federal lawsuit against Walker County Water and Sewerage Authority which listed damages of $1,786,769.82 and stated that amount continues to increase each month. What is the status of the lawsuit? How can we be sure that the county’s $5 million investment will not be used for settlement of this lawsuit? How can we ensure the county investment will not be subject to recovery efforts by Chattanooga?


Curiously the release states that 50,000 residents will benefit, yet numbers reported by WCWSA to the EPD list 12,000 connections serving 36,000 people.


From the release:


 Construction on a new water treatment plant is estimated to cost $11.4 million, while redirecting sewer to Chickamauga will be a $9 million venture. The bulk of WCWSA’s improvement plan centers around installing new water mains to distribute clean, safe and healthy drinking water throughout the county and constructing additional storage tanks throughout the distribution network.


Along with improving water quality and water pressure for existing customers, the plan would improve fire protection throughout the county. It would also aid residents in the High community near Girl Scout Camp Adahi, who do not have access to a reliable drinking water source and have asked the county for help addressing public health concerns associated with failing private wells. In addition, the improvement plan would support regional economic growth opportunities at the McLemore development on Lookout Mountain.


Interesting that McLemore Resorts is mentioned. How many times have county leaders repeated that no public funds would be spent on McLemore? 


Walker County Water and Sewerage Authority is a separate entity from the county government(though Shannon Whitfield is the chairman of the board of WCWSA) but when Walker County citizens are being asked to invest $5 million of stimulus funds(meant for the whole county) in a $45 million improvement plan no one in the public has seen it is incumbent upon the board of commissioners to take the time necessary for public deliberation. 


How do we know this plan is good for the county? The plan developed by the hospital authority was great at one time and how long did that take to pay off? This may be a wise investment but more information is required before that determination can be made.


I am not opposed to the county investing $5 million in water and sewer infrastructure. I am opposed to the public being given only basic details about the plan just two days prior to the vote on it when the meeting agenda packet was released a week prior. I am opposed to county funds being invested in a plan that the public has not even seen much less evaluated. 


Would the board vote to approve $5 million for a county fund without the public seeing the budget for that fund? Absolutely not. This situation is no different. If Walker County is to invest in a plan developed and managed by a separate entity such as WCWSA, then the plan should be made public first and adequate time for public deliberation. As such, I hope the board of commissioners will vote to table this issue until the next meeting and release more information to the public.  

 

Elliott Pierce

 

* * *

 

I don’t want to throw out a definition of insanity cliche here, but man.  I think that’s what we've got.

So Shannon Whitfield has backed the county into yet another corner.  This latest corner, of the endless corners we’ve been in involves the moralizing of “drinking water” in Walker County.  Who doesn’t want clean drinking water, right?  I mean, who could possibly say no to that?  Only a bad person would not vote for that, just like only a bad person would vote against “affordable housing.”

According to Elliot Pierce, the County has until Oct 31 to approve the stimulus funding allocation.  Not a big deal, right?  Its stimulus, so who cares?  Wrong.  The Whitfield tactic is coercive.

How it (likely) plays out:

Ideas roll in about how to spend the projected money.  Shannon picks which idea he wants to go with.  Due to the board’s inexperience Shannon waits till the last minute to make a recommendation as to where the money should go.  You could ask, “Couldn’t the board come up with their own ideas about how to spend the money?”  The answer is, “Yes.”  But realistically it going to be, “No.”  But why?

Well, imagine you’re an inexperienced board member and you’re put in a time-sensitive position to deny someone clean drinking water.  What would you do?  You lack the experience to negotiate the state/county bureaucracy.  You work another job.  You’ve got family to take care of.  Besides, the other guys are going to vote for it.  So you’re compelled to vote for it too.

Is the drinking water idea bad?  Probably not, but we need other answers before we launch head-first, with minimal time for public considerations, into another disaster.

Questions:

Where is the money exactly coming from?

Where is the bond coming from?  What is the interest rate?

What’s up with the Chattanooga lawsuit?

Where did the 50,000 resident number come from?

What happens if this money is not generated?

What other projects could have been considered?  What other projects are other commissioners considering?

Is this project for Lookout Mountain (Mclemore) or another opportunity to exploit Rossville?

How many private wells have failed?

How many residents live in the “High” community are without water?

Is it true that the Mclemore project infrastructure supposedly didn’t need public funding?

Jeremy Bankston


Where In The Constitution Is Murder Legal?

EVs And A Real Environmental Solution

Roy Exum: My December Garden


413 § U.S. 15 #SCOTUS holds that this communication is protected speech; hopefully there are individuals willing to discuss this rationally, both openly and on topic, in a public forum. a: ... (click for more)

There’s been a lot of back and forth the past week in these digital pages regarding electric vehicles. I agree we can’t be blind to the environmental harm of EVs (for all the reasons Mr. Exum ... (click for more)

There is one remaining bright red rose still hanging as I take my monthly walk through the garden in search of orchids and onions to hand out in the Season of Giving. The winter rye grass is ... (click for more)



Opinion

Where In The Constitution Is Murder Legal?

413 § U.S. 15 #SCOTUS holds that this communication is protected speech; hopefully there are individuals willing to discuss this rationally, both openly and on topic, in a public forum. a: Where in the U.S. Constitution as amended, does it state that a mother, or anyone else, is entitled to murder their child? b: If the choice to murder is legal (it is not), at what age must ... (click for more)

EVs And A Real Environmental Solution

There’s been a lot of back and forth the past week in these digital pages regarding electric vehicles. I agree we can’t be blind to the environmental harm of EVs (for all the reasons Mr. Exum mentioned). From my own reading it seems the jury is still out on whether the embedded costs of EVs are better or worse than a typical combustion vehicle. My money is on EVs in the long ... (click for more)

Breaking News

Hamilton County Has 1 More COVID Death And 81 New Cases; County Death Toll Rises From 680 To 702 Due To "Reporting Issue"; Tennessee Has 100 More Deaths

The Hamilton County Health Department reported one more coronavirus death on Thursday and 107 new positive cases, up from 81 on Wednesday. The total number of cases in the county now stands at 65,721. The death total is now at 702. It was reported at 680 on Wednesday, but due to a reporting issue with an area hospital, there has been a delay in reporting COVID deaths. Twenty-one ... (click for more)

Governor Exonerates Adam Braseel Of Grundy County On Murder Charge

Governor Bill Lee announced executive clemency decisions for 17 offenders who have demonstrated a successful path to rehabilitation and established a new process for individuals seeking clemency for drug-free school zone convictions. Those include an exoneration for Adam Braseel of Grundy County, who spent 12 years of a 51-year sentence for a murder it is now believed he did ... (click for more)

Sports

Dan Fleser: Vols, Lady Vols Reinventing Themselves

The Tennessee Vols bounced back from a sputtering start in their previous game and routed Presbyterian on Tuesday night at Thompson-Boling Arena. One night later, the Tennessee Lady Vols showed more scoring depth in beating Tennessee Tech. Both teams made progress, which arguably is as important now as results. This portion of a basketball season is crucial for sorting ... (click for more)

#11/10 Lady Vols Fly Past Golden Eagles, 76-48

Rolling to its second consecutive win of 25 points or more, the No. 11/10 Tennessee women's basketball team defeated Tennessee Tech, 76-48, Wednesday night at Thompson-Boling Arena. Tennessee (7-0) has now won nine consecutive games at Thompson-Boling Arena. That is its longest streak of the Kellie Harper era and longest since UT rattled off 11 straight from Feb. 19, 2017, ... (click for more)