WWTA Chief Outlines Multiple Sewage Issues Facing Signal Mountain; Town Moving On Hiring New City Manager

Tuesday, December 14, 2021 - by Gail Perry

The search for Signal Mountain’s next town manager is moving forward. Applications and resumes have been received. The council members have ranked the candidates and  Honna Rogers, consultant from Municipal Technical Advisory Service, has compiled the ratings. All of the six to seven applicants with the highest ranking from the council members will be invited to participate with individual ZOOM interviews, with all being asked the same questions.

This will be done  as a first introduction to the council. Those short interviews will take place the first week of January and will be open to the public. How to narrow the field and proceed with in-person interviews will be decided at the first council meeting in January.

 

At the Monday night council meeting, WWTA Executive Director Mike Patrick gave a presentation about finding solutions to the many wastewater problems on Signal Mountain. A rehabilitation alternative study was started in September including smoke testing the lines to help detect leaks. The study is scheduled to continue until next May, but Mr. Patrick told the council that much data has already been collected for identifying numerous projects, most that will entail significant expenses. Many drain pipes that were installed when the system was built are located in places such as stream beds that would never be approved today. He said that it is not possible to relocate some of them and it will be a major expense to repair them.

 

Also, some manholes have chronic overflows during wet weather, caused by excessive inflow of rainwater entering the system, he said. And the way that they were originally laid out due to the slope of the land caused some manholes to be as close as two feet from the surface, which is unusual. If the problem manholes are sealed, it would just move the overflow to a new location. The WWTA’s ultimate desire, he said, would be to stop the leaks into the old pipes upstream which might alleviate the need to install a pump station. If a pump station has to be built, the best location would be in the Alexian Village area. 

 

When plans have been finalized for the way to upgrade the sanitary sewer system, the work will be ratepayer funded, he said. There is the possibility that COVID funds from the federal government could be used or a low interest loan from the state for the projects on Signal Mountain. However, there are a lot of utilities competing for those loans and the delay would mean that it would take one-and a-half to two years before actual construction of a pump station could begin. A limited number of other projects could be started earlier. Public meetings will be held in January to inform residents while the WWTA continues looking for alternatives.

 

Interim City Manager Mitchell Moore told the council that letters have been sent to every property owner in the city about 2021 stormwater billing. In the past, this bill was attached to the property tax bill but has been separated out this year. Also, the rate has increased by 30 percent. The fee is calculated for each property based on the amount of impervious surface there is. 

 

The city-owned water utility is seeing some additional expenses. The water department had started working on a project to move a water line associated with slope stabilization being done by TDOT. In mid-stream, TDOT changed the plan by redesigning the intersection where the problem is between Palisades and Signal Mountain Boulevard near the space house. This caused the need for re-engineering the plan. The council agreed to pay CTI Engineers an additional $15,000 for design, bidding and management of the relocation for the water line caused by the change being made to the intersection.

 

A change was made to the pay plan for the Signal Mountain Water Utility Department. They will now be paid $40.50 per week for being available on-call from Monday through Sunday and will earn one-and a-half times their hourly rate for callout pay during emergencies.

 

At the meeting, resolutions were passed that authorized  the purchase of a Bullseye digital fire extinguisher training system for $27,025 for the fire department. It will be paid with money from a FEMA grant. A contract extension for $18,000 was also approved with Big Woody’s Tree Service for brush and chipping services.  And additional funds of $6,616 were authorized for Hamilton County 911 for 2021-2022.

 

Vice Mayor Susannah Murdock told the council that a consulting firm has been chosen to organize meetings with the towns of Signal Mountain, Walden and Hamilton County to formulate a “Mountaintop Growth Plan.” She said topics that are expected to be addressed are "inter-connectivity, growth and to share information and forward thinking about what we want to look like." At a future meeting how the costs for the study will be shared between the three entities will be discussed.

 

Several of the city’s boards do not have enough applicants to fill the current vacancies. Those include the Parks board, the Stormwater Appeals board, the Rec board, and the Construction board of appeals. The city will do targeted advertising in hopes of finding people willing to serve in those positions.

 

Acting Town Manager Moore, told the council that with the many issues they are dealing with now, he sees a need for the board to hold some special work sessions during the next couple of months. These will be for discussion of issues, but no voting. Depending on availability of the council members, these sessions may begin in January. Mr. Moore also said that to keep the council informed, he will be scheduling reports from each of the city departments for  the bi-weekly council meetings.

 

The next regularly scheduled meeting for Dec. 27 has been cancelled. The next council meeting will be on Jan. 10.

 


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