State gives Lewisburg $500,000 utility grant

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

By Clint Confehr

Senior Staff Writer

Lewisburg has been awarded a $500,000 matching grant administered by the state for an on-going sewer repair project as the city has a $13 million sewage treatment plant expansion and improvement project under construction.

Improvements at the treatment plant are costing water and sewer utility ratepayers $11 million because of U.S. economic stimulus funding. Repair of broken sewers here could cost nearly $60 million, city Water and Wastewater Department Superintendent Kenneth Carr said.

Ground water seeps into sewers, thereby increasing the volume of what flows to the treatment plant and that's been one of two reasons the plant's treatment capacity must be increased by a state order. The city is repairing its pipes. Customer pipes may be affected.

To find broken pipes, utility crewmen force artificial smoke into a sewer. Where it escapes reveals the location of a break in the line, regardless of whether it's a main or a customer service line.

Sewers in the northwest part of Lewisburg will be tested and would be repaired next year based on such testing and with money that was originally appropriated by Congress to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In turn, HUD distributes Community Development Block Grants to states that allocate the CDBG money. Tennessee distributes the money through its system of development districts.

Carr specified the Jackson Avenue and Glenn Avenue areas of Lewisburg as part of Drainage Area No. 5 where the sewer repair work would be conducted. That includes the Marshall County Highway Department garage and a mobile home park near there.

That area is north of West Commerce Street. A few years ago, another grant awarded by the state paid for pipe repair on the south side of West Commerce Street.

The award discussed by Carr after a meeting with Lisa Cross, a community development specialist with the South Central Tennessee Community Development District office in Columbia, is the fifth such CDBG awarded to the city utility. It represents nearly a decade of such projects and therefore more than $2 million in federal money that's made available to the city for payment to contractors hired for the projects.

Since it's a matching grant, the city must participate by paying 18 percent of the cost of the project, or approximately $90,000 if nearly all of the federal money is spent.

This latest project will be the subject of a call for bids from contractors who want the job. In broad terms, bids might be called in late May or early June. They could be opened in June and it's possible a work order could be issued for the contractor to proceed in July 2012.

"This won't solve it all," Carr said. "Any assistance on there is greatly appreciated."