Town of Byrdstown to receive $500,000 ARC Grant
Submitted By: Chris Thompson, Mayor of Byrdstown
One of the many things I have been faced with since being elected mayor is state regulations concerning the Byrdstown Water Department. There is a lot more to managing a water utility correctly than meets the eye. It involves operational management, personnel management, budgeting, capital project management, problem solving, public relations, overseeing the preparation of plans and specifications, getting cost estimates, and many other situations that a person just has to adapt to and overcome if you are going to be successful in maintaining the integrity of the water system.
One of the state agencies that we have to answer to is the Water & Wastewater Financing Board which was originally created pursuant to Public Chapter 299 of 1987, later codified in Tennessee Code Annotated Sections 68-221-1007 et seq. The Board’s jurisdiction was broadened to include water systems, and the Board was renamed the Water and Wastewater Financing Board. The Board is created for the purpose of “furthering the legislative objective of self-supporting water systems and wastewater facilities in this state” and “to determine and ensure the financial integrity of certain water systems and wastewater facilities” under its jurisdiction. The Board is responsible for determining the financial, technical and managerial capacity of the systems to comply with the requirements of federal and state laws and has authority to require appropriate action by those systems to correct deficiencies found.
One of the most common deficiencies found in water systems all across the State is "Water Loss". Water Loss is basically the difference between the water produced (treated) and the water sold. We can account for some of the water that is treated but not sold. Some of the accounted for (not sold) water is used for: fire department(s) to extinguish fires, flushing lines, tank cleaning/filling, street cleaning, water bill adjustments etc.... The "Water Loss" which we can't account for is: leaks, water theft, meter inaccuracies etc........ with the largest one being "LEAKS".
With that being said, the Water & Wastewater Financing Board has focused on water loss over the last three years. Not long after I was elected, the WWFB met on several occasions to discuss new guidelines concerning "Water Loss". After several meetings they decided to lower the acceptable (maximum) Water Loss percentage to 35%. They also set in place a progressive decrease in the allowable amount through 2019. What does that mean? It means we must enact a plan to decrease our water loss to avoid violating state regulations. Another reason to enact a plan to reduce water loss is to try and increase revenue. The water lost through our water system equates to money lost. Treating water and then losing it into the ground is a large financial burden to our customers. By decreasing Water Loss you will undoubtedly increase revenues which can in turn be used to improve the water system and also help keep water rates from rising so quickly.
Soon after I was made aware of the changes that the WWFB were going to enact I knew that it would take a considerable amount of money to implement the changes needed to lower our Water Loss within their guidelines. I also knew that these new guidelines were going to be applied to water utilities all over the state and they would all be scrambling to try and get money through a grant process which would be highly competitive. I contacted our engineer and our consultant to begin to put together a grant application to submit to the Appalachian Regional Commission which funds municipal water projects all over the state. We formed a plan and submitted it during the spring of my first year as mayor. When the announcements were made that fall, we were not among those who were awarded a grant. Fay Leonard and I were both very disappointed but decided we were not going to take no for an answer and resubmitted the grant proposal during the next round of applications. It worked! We were awarded the grant for our Water Loss project. The grant total with our contribution is $625,000 with $500,000 being from ARC and our contribution being $125,000. It was a welcome surprise considering that without this grant the Town would have had to bear all of the cost for this project.
This project will get underway in the near future. The funds will be used for several different things within the scope of this project which will include: a leak detection survey to pinpoint and repair large leaks across the system, installing zoned flow meters(with telemetry) to isolate portions of the system to identify the trouble areas, replace older service lines that have deteriorated and become brittle, and several other measures, all of which will not only increase revenue but will also get us going in the right direction to stay within state guidelines for allowable "Water Loss".