More water service projects planned

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

By Clint Confehr

Senior Staff Writer

As the Marshall County Board of Public Utilities is planning to call for construction bids for a pipe to Clay Hill-area residents, the water utility wants to hear from residents who've filed requests for other pipeline extensions.

Meanwhile, one of the utility's contractors says it's substantially completed one of the projects that's been part of a major expansion of the county's water distribution system, a project that started in 2008. Claims of incomplete work should be reported to the MCBPU.

As for the special meeting for people who want water service extended to their property, that's to be at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 12, in the Marshall County Courthouse Annex on Lewisburg's public square, according to County Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett who was at last weeks meeting of the MCBPU.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has allocated money from Congress to the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TDECD) in the form of a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to pay for water line extensions.

Several years ago, local officials concluded that one of the most important things they could do for county residents was to make potable water service available to more rural areas of the county.

"The purpose of this (Jan. 12) meeting is to review the guidelines of the (CDBG) program and to solicit input from area residents regarding potential uses of CDBG funds," Liggett announced last week.

In addition to water service, the money may be spent to improve rural health, fire protection, housing rehabilitation and sewer. The utility has only one small, independent wastewater system just north of Chapel Hill.

Potential water projects are the subject of the public meeting. The Clay Hill project is separate and stems from a TDEC investigation that led to a circuit court case pursued in Marshall and Bedford County Circuit Courts by state attorneys. It was alleged that a hog farmer's management practices caused pollution of several residents' water wells. A Bedford County hog farmer who was accused of fouling four Marshall County household wells was found not guilty on pollution and vandalism charges by a five-man, seven-woman jury at the close of a three-day trial here in late May.

The suspected cause of the pollution is in Bedford County and with state help, the solution for residents that might generally be seen as living in Marshall County near the Duck River Speedway is for an MCBPU pipe to be extended to that area of the county.

MCBPU directors considered the situation when they met on Dec. 13.

They voted to call for bids from private contractors who could build the pipeline that was, in general terms, described by MCBPU Superintendent Tommy Whaley on Tuesday this week.

"It's maybe a little better than four miles of water line," Whaley said. "We've got a route on where we want to run it, but don't have easements on which side of the road we want to run it on.

"We won't bid anything on that until we get the easements and a (specific) route for the line," he said.

"It'll be primarily six-inch pipe," said Whaley who was asked if the water system extension might serve others in that part of the county. "The end of the pipeline is going to be Bedford County.

"On the Marshall County part, there are some roads that, at some point in time, where there may be roads with residents who don't have problems" related to the environmental issues that were presented to the circuit court.

While the funding for the project "is not a 100 percent grant," Whaley said, the board faced federal legal issues as it examines the job and its costs.

The Davis-Bacon Act states that when federal money is used, then the prevailing wage must be paid for labor hired for the job. That prescription is not an issue if the utility assigns its work crews to build the water line.

"We want to do it as cost effectively as possible," Whaley said, "but also as efficiently as possible."

That's not a distinction without a difference because when the work is done is also to be considered.

"It might become a project we can't get to until after December 2013," Whaley said.

Furthermore, he said, "We've got a lot of foot work to do on that" water line project.

MCBPU's consulting engineer, Bob Ramsey, advised the board that Whaley's crew might be able to install the pipes for 35-40 percent less than a contractor, but Whaley also noted during the meeting last Tuesday that the project's route may be seen as challenging. It's not just rock. There are wetlands to consider.

Faced with such uncertainties, MCBPU Chairman Rocky Bowden acknowledged there were alternatives, but without a call for bids, the options wouldn't exist. The board then voted to call for bids.

MCBPU Director matt Collins pointed out that perhaps the utility would have part of the project built by a contractor with the balance done by the utility.

Whaley says the bid-call probably won't be issued for six months.