The city of Crossville needs to find about $2.6 million to pay for utility relocation before work begins on the Hwy. 127 N. project later this year. 

The first phase of the road project will widen the road to four lanes from Interstate 40 to Potato Farm Rd. 

“The elephant in the room is, how are we going to pay for that?” asked City Manager Greg Wood during a budget work session April 30. 

While the Tennessee Department of Transportation will pay for the utility relocation, the city is responsible for the cost of any upgrades they want to make to their water and sewer lines during the construction phase. 

“It’s betterment,” explained City Engineer Tim Begley. “We’re installing casings at the intersections.”

The city’s share of sewer upgrades come to about $390,000 while water lines will require about $2.3 million.

Those costs are divided between the city’s water and sewer budget and the Catoosa Water Department budget, which serves most of the water customers north of Interstate 40. 

The city plans to install a 10-inch waterline on one side of the new highway and keep a 6-inch line on the other side. The 10-inch line will allow the city to better serve the area as it grows.

“We can’t run every service line under a four-lane highway and median,” Begley told the council. “We’ve added a water line on both sides.”

While the state has completed right-of-way acquisition for the new road, the city still needs to get utility easements to install the utility lines.

“We’ve had four updates since January,” Begley said. “We’ve finally been told we have a set of drawings we can go get easements with.”

The state wants payment for the work before it bids the project, set for the next fiscal year.

Wood said, “We can look at the bond pool and the State Revolving Fund to get the money now.”

TDOT is also holding about $1.3 million of the city’s funds for utility relocation on Hwy. 127 S. for a road project that stalled in 2004. 

Begley said, “We could ask the state to return that money.”

City Clerk Valeria Hale said she had been working on that possibility, but had heard the state may add the road widening project from Cumberland Medical Center to the TDOT garage back into its road construction plans. 

Graham said, “We need to put it in the budget and we need to give this bunch walking orders to get us some money and get it funded.”

Graham said city personnel need to shop the loan request to various agencies to determine the most advantageous interest rate. 

The city will continue projects to identify and reduce waterline leaks and reduce stormwater infiltration of the sewer system. 

About $50,000 will be budgeted for a leak detection program. Graham said the state comptroller’s office requires water utilities to have a water loss of less than 20%. The city’s most recent report found a 33% loss between treated and billed water in March, with a six-month average of 25% and a one-year average of 21%. 

The city accounts for water lost due to firefighting activities in those reports. 

“We did good, and then the bottom fell out,” Graham said. 

Jeff Johnson, director of the Catoosa Water Department, said, “That will come down in the summer. It’s rained so much, we can’t find the leaks.”

The city is continuing with a sewer project to identify areas with leaks that allow stormwater to enter the system. The stormwater is then treated with the wastewater and it reduces the city’s sewer treatment capacity, explained Graham. 

A project funded by a Community Development Block Grant is underway and will continue into the next budget year until its December completion. Begley said contractors are videoing other areas of sewer line to help the city gather information for future sewer projects.

“It sets us up for the next project,” Begley said. “Every time we do a project, we try to get enough video where we know what our next project could be.”

He said the city had been working to reduce stormwater infiltration for several years in an effort to gain additional capacity at the sewer treatment plant.

“We’ve been fighting it for several years. We’ve not stopped enough of that [infiltration and inflow] to see a change at the plant,” Begley said. “That’s why you see that in the capital plan every year.”

Graham said, “About 55% of everything that goes through our sewer plant is [inflow and infiltration]. If we could cut that in half, just think of the capacity that we would save.”

Other projects include sludge removal at Meadow Park Lake, estimated at $150,000, and a possible new office facility for Catoosa Water Department. 

The council also discussed hiring additional personnel in utility maintenance. Director Billy Martin explained the additional person would help with preventative maintenance on grinder pumps for the sewer system. The city maintains about 1,300 residential grinder pumps, but Martin said his two employees are having trouble just keeping up with repair calls. 

Martin would also like an additional employee for the water transmission department.

The council will hold its monthly work session Tuesday at 5 p.m. and return to budget discussions in a work session Thursday at 5 p.m.

All meetings will be held at Crossville City Council, 392 N. Main St.

Heather Mullinix is editor of the Crossville Chronicle. She covers schools and education in Cumberland County. She may be reached at hmullinix@crossville-chronicle.com.