Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

June 26, 2013

TSUD could become ‘financially distressed utility’

By Clinton Gill
Smoke Signals editor

CROSSVILLE — The Tansi Sewer Utility District is expecting to show a financial loss for the second year in a row when the report they submitted to the state comes back from the auditor. “State law says that, if a utility district, for three years in a row, if they show financial loss they could be considered a financially distressed utility,” said Commissioner Virgil Ferguson. “I don’t know what all that would really mean but what I understand is that if the state declared us a financially distressed utility then someone from the state would come in and start setting rates and make us financially stable again, whatever it costs, and it would be up to customers to foot the bill,” said Ferguson. “The way we’ve operated for the past two years, I can’t see that we’d be financially stable next year unless the city or somebody comes in and takes over.”

According to Tennessee Code 7-82-704, financially distressed utility districts,”to ensure continued operations...the utility management review board may undertake to study the possible consolidation of a financially distressed utility district with another utility district or districts, municipal utility system or county utility system. In the event the board determines that such a consolidation is in the best interest of the public being served by a utility district, it may undertake negotiations with the affected parties, under the auspices of the chancery court as the case may be, to accomplish such a consolidation on such terms as may be agreed to by all of the parties.

“...[R]epayments may be made from surcharges levied upon the customers in the service area of the financially distressed utility district being consolidated; provided, that such surcharges shall not result in user fees in the service area of the financially distressed utility district being in excess of the maximum level of users fees as may be determined by the board to be reasonable for the service area.”

“That’s looming down the road as far as this utility district is concerned,” said Ferguson.

He continued to explain that South Cumberland Utility District could merge with TSUD. The city has made a proposal of merger between South Cumberland and TSUD. “They want to merge these two utility districts, and also take over the Brown Elementary line. TSUD is on the record of saying, maybe that would be the best option for sewer to be in Tansi ... Until the lawsuits determine who owns what, we cannot go forward,” said Ferguson.

The request to merge all lawsuits is pending mediation, which is set up for July.

The board passed a motion to establish a $150 refundable deposit that will be repaid after one year to customers in good standing. Policies regarding employees, commissioner requirements, purchasing, customer complaint procedures and collection on delinquent accounts were tabled until next month’s meeting due to Commissioner Kerley’s absence from the meeting.

A motion was also passed to hire Randy Boston to represent TSUD in the lawsuits.

Representatives from Indian Woods POA were present to inquire about hooking up to the system. Indian Woods has a total of 28 units, 12 of which would remain on the existing septic system. They were provided with information on costs but no decisions were made as to whether or not they would hook up to the TSUD system.

In other business, there was a discussion between Horace Wyatt and Darian Dykes  about plant operations. Wyatt asked Dykes a series of questions intended to clarify conflicting information that has been put out by previous boards.

1. The plant is rated at 60,000 gallons per day – How far above capacity can you safely go? 

“I don’t know what the magic number is,” said Dykes, “I’m sure there’s a 10 or 15 percent rule that the plant can exceed. I think so, just from an operator’s standpoint. Now is it a good thing? Probably not. The state doesn’t like to exceed the 80 percent rule,” said Dykes. 

Operating at 80 percent capacity would treat 48,000 gallons per day. The concern about going any higher is the expense of replacing the membranes, which were estimated to cost at least $45,000 each.

2. What has peak daily treatment been in the last 30 days?

“On the last report the total max on one day was 43,000 gallons; the day prior to that was 3,000 gallons because the plant had probably kicked out. If you combine the two, if the plant hadn’t had a malfunction, you’re probably looking at 20-25,000 gallons per day. I know the average on the last report was about 22,000 gallons per day. You’re gonna have some spikes, you’re gonna have some lows, but overall it’s pretty much about 20-25,000 gallons per day,” said Dykes.

3. If the plant will only treat so much, do you go by whatever your highest day is?

“It’s hard for me to talk to you in a foreign language without actually seeing the plant, but each train, there are two trains, two sets of membranes, If something goes wrong with one, you’re still able to operate until you get the other one maintained. Both those trains will kick out 60 gallons per minute. So yes, I think you could exceed 50,000 gallons per day, but I would only want to do that short term,” said Dykes.

4. There’s some kind of a racket that can be heard from the golf course that sounds like a bearing in the motor has gone bad.

“There are two motors over there that supply air to the bioreactor. The noise is probably a motor bearing that wouldn’t be that expensive to fix. The reason why you only hear it one day is that every eight hours they cycle out,” said Dykes.

5. It’s been said that TSUD has to reserve capacity for anybody that they have a line available to, whether they were hooked to it or not. How many residences could you hook up if necessary?

“Through experience, we’ve learned that households typically use 200-225 gallons per day. Nationally, people use 1,500 gallons per person per month. Obviously a household of four would use more per month than a household of only two. Since Lake Tansi is a retirement community, there are probably more two-person households, so you would probably be able to hook up more houses based on that number,” said Dykes.

6. Do you treat more water in the summer when the rentals and timeshares are full or during the rest of the year when school is in session?

“Summer is where you’re gonna see these averages bounce all over the place,” said Dykes. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day is the heaviest usage, but you have to be able to treat the water year round.

“You [Dykes] mentioned some time ago that the plant does 70,000 gallons per day over there, and we thought water might be getting into the system,” noted Ferguson. “This permit is for 50,000 gallons per day, if there’s water getting in, we need to know what it is and where it’s coming from,” he said.

“I don’t put a lot of confidence in that meter [coming into the plant] because you’re supposed to get an annual calibration on a meter to make sure it’s within its tolerances,” said Dykes. “I go by UV run time and the gallons per minute off the train. That’s how I come up with my averages. The thing about that meter is that it will show flow coming through but when you look in the pipe there’s nothing in it. That’s the reason I don’t put a lot of confidence in that meter,” said Dykes.

According to Alan Webb, “RCI uses a lot of water.” Last July, they used over 500,000 gallons in one month, on one pump. That’s not counting Hiawatha Manor East, which probably adds 50,000 gallons to that figure. It should be noted, however, that not all of that water runs into the sewer.

The next meeting is set for July 9.