Dresden aldermen search for ‘lost’ water

Dresden aldermen search for ‘lost’ water

“Water water everywhere.”

The City of Dresden Board of Mayor and Aldermen didn’t exactly receive prophecy from the Ancient Mariner, but the bulk of the discussion of the City of Dresden’s lengthy board meeting Monday night focused on the city’s water and specifically, the city’s “unaccounted for” or lost water.

The city recently received a letter from state comptroller Joyce Welborn, revealing that it had a 38.6 percent water loss. Every city and community exceeding 35 percent water loss received a letter from Welborn along with suggestions on how to improve the percentage.

Tony Wyatt, a circuit writer for the west Tennessee region of the Tennessee Association of Utility Districts (TAUD), fielded questions and provided information at the board meeting.

Wyatt explained that, with the combined research of city utility plants, utility management boards and the comptroller, a magic number of 35 percent water loss or “unaccounted for” water was established and since that number was put in place, approximately 180 systems in the state had received letters stating an excess of water loss.

“Probably a couple of years ago, the state legislature passed a law saying that all water systems would have to keep up with their unaccounted for water. That’s water loss that you can’t account for. You can account for the water you bill, the water you use to flush your lines if you have to clean a tank out. Those are amounts of water you can account for. What their concern was that the water that can’t be accounted for,” Wyatt remarked. 

“They spent about two years trying to set up something that was acceptable as far as a percentage. Finally, in October of last year, they finally set their magic number being 35 percent of unaccounted for water was going to be the most acceptable and anything over that wouldn’t be.”

The letter mailed from the comptroller’s office states that two actions must be accomplished: using the American Water Works Association (AWWA) methodology to calculate what you need to do and writing a plan. In this case, the city of Dresden has already submitted a plan back to the comptroller’s office.

“Originally, what people did when calculating unaccounted for water was taking a straight percentage.” We developed some software that can be downloaded off our website. Numbers can be plugged in every month and this tells them about the unaccounted for water and for the year and this is printed off and sent to the comptroller’s office along with your audit. AWWA requires a little bit more information. It’s a methodology to get you to look at what’s going on in your water system and then try to make the needed changes,” Wyatt explained. 

Wyatt passed out a report based on software from AWWA. 

Water loss is calculated through inaccurate meters, unauthorized consumption and a default margin. Real losses minus apparent losses show leaks or overflows of tanks. The city has about 46 miles of water mains, 1,540 meters and an active operating pressure of about 50 psi. Total annual cost of running the water system could only be estimated based on 50 percent water and 50 percent sewer as both utilities go together for the city. 

“The best we could do was take your last audit and half it. That’s the best we can do,” Wyatt explained. “My recommendation was to come up with a little bit better accounting to see what goes to water and what goes to sewer.”

Based on numbers, Wyatt recommended the city consider a meter replacement program for older meters and split up the total cost of operation of water and sewer for more accurate numbers and better accountability. The city of Dresden will be in contact with the comptroller and will meet with the state on May 12 to discuss solutions. 

Later on in the meeting, City Recorder Jennifer Branscum addressed averaging water leaks and looking at every available avenue possible not to have to raise water rates. The idea was tabled until next month for further discussion.

In other communications from the Mayor, the board agreed to table discussion on a possible ride-along program for citizens to go along on any of the three shifts Dresden Police Department officers work in order to gain a better understanding of the nature of their work. 

“The goal is to give a better scope of what the officers are doing on all three shifts and build a better understanding,” Mayor Danny Forrester explained. 

Aldermen Gwin Anderson questioned the safety of the citizens during an emergency situation and requested more information before making any decisions on the matter. Likewise, other board members agreed and the matter will be addressed again until the March board meeting. 

Rounding out communications from the mayor, the board voted to go with the lowest bidder on oil changes and maintenance for city vehicles and Forrester reported that the Calpaco building now supplies 160 people with jobs and more jobs will be added. 

In input from the citizens, Weakley County Chamber of Commerce Director Barbara Virgin had good news and bad news and she shared the bad news first by reiterating the terrible blow the county will be receiving with the loss of the Goodyear plant in Union City.

According to statistics, 384 Weakley Countians had a job with Goodyear. The only county having more workers was, of course, Obion County with 934. Altogether, 1,627 of Goodyear’s total 1,983 workers come from the state of Tennessee with 354 coming from Kentucky, one coming from Missouri and one coming from Alabama. 

“There will be special efforts made to overcome this devastation. There have been special-called meetings and regional efforts to see what we all can do to overcome the loss,” Virgin stressed.

On a more positive note, Virgin released a newsletter detailing the Governor’s Three-Star Program and grants to take advantage of in securing the status. Weakley County continues to rank at the top of the list in making the most of grant money. 

Numerous events are coming up on the chamber calendar including A Taste of Weakley County to benefit the Carl Perkins Center on April 9, the Iris Festival to take place April 30-May 7 and the presidential and leadership banquet on May 19 in which Alderman Jake Bynum will be named as the new president.

In other input, Dresden resident Irma Taylor went before the board to request that a $1,300 charge assessed by the Dresden Fire Department to extinguish her house fire be reduced. Taylor made this request on the grounds that she didn’t ask the fire department to put out the fire – a passerby on the road called the department – and the blaze is being investigated as a possible arson.

“This situation is the opposite of South Fulton,” Forrester explained. “We went when the property owner did not call.”

“A passerby on the roadway (Hwy 89) saw the structure on fire and made the call. We don’t look at a list, we just respond. When we extinguished the fire and performed post-fire procedure, we believed the fire may have been caused by arson. There was no viable source of ignition,” Fire Chief Paul Hutcherson explained.

Forrester asked the department and the advisory board to meet and bring back a report at the April board meeting.

In employee’s reports, Finance Director Kayla Tyler remarked that she and Branscum will be attending CMFO training.

Public Works Director Kerry Cooper requested permission to bid out hot patching to fix spots on the streets and his request was granted in the form of a motion.

Police Chief Brent Perry announced that there are plans in the works to possibly have a safety program implemented at Dresden Middle School.

Parks and Recreation Director David Beaty requested and was granted permission to prep the old t-ball field at Wilson Park for baseball and softball.

Hutcherson shared that the fire department is pursuing three grants and is at different stages of acceptance with each one. 

A grant of $50,000 has been awarded from Sen. Lamar Alexander’s office and the department is currently deciding on the equipment that can be purchased with the grant money. 

Another grant for fire safety in education is in the process of application and the department missed the deadline on a CDBG grant for a fire engine, but is ahead on work for an upcoming AFG grant.

Anderson reported that the public works and water advisory committee met and discussed the securing of a loan for $50,000 with 20 percent forgiveness. The board passed a motion to apply for the SRF loan and a payback plan of $3 per customer over a 10-year period.

In other unfinished business, the board voted to pass the FY 2010 audit compiled by Newbill and Associates. 

In new business, the board voted to pass Donation Resolution 2011-06. This is a resolution to accept gifts and donations for the city and specifically entails the use of a van for the city and the Weakley County Office on Aging/Dresden Senior Citizens Center.

In announcements, community cleanup day will be held April 2, Wilson Park will open April 9 and there will be a community Easter egg hunt April 23.

wcp 2/17/11

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