Monday, September 24, 2012Author: Stephanie Myers
(Last modified: 2012-09-24 08:30:13)
Lenoir City Utilities Board has until the first of the month to explain why 378 million of over 1 billion gallons of water produced were unaccounted for this past year.
The state Water and Wastewater Financing Board contacted the utility company in June after LCUB exceeded 35 percent of unaccounted water.
LCUB General Manager Shannon Littleton made it clear to board members that the utility should take its response seriously.
"The low-lying fruit, if you will, is probably begin a meter replacement program," Littleton told the board, adding he believes LCUB should also add zone metering to its system to monitor large areas of usage.
Littleton said he believes the problem the board is facing moving forward is determining what percent is actually lost to pipe failure.
"We've got water losses that occur through fire department flushing lines and multiple things that can go on through the system," Littleton said. "The actual water that's lost through the piping in the ground is very hard to determine, so we don't know.
"We've got to determine where these water losses are occurring," he said. "Common sense tells you where they are probably occurring, but we don't know for sure.
"As you all well know, if you start digging one row in Lenoir City downtown costs us $5 million, so you just can't start digging," he added.
Littleton is confident LCUB has been on a similar state water board list before.
"Really what's brought this on, to my understanding, is it's sound financially, but also the droughts that have been occurring. They wanted the systems to get to a point where they have less and less water losses," he said. "I hope, if we do it properly and finance it properly, I'm hoping there will be little to no impact to the customers."
At the regular monthly meeting, board members discussed the feasibility of installing new zone water meters in hopes of determining if and where leaks are occurring.
"There could be a large percentage that is off just through inadequate meters not reading properly," Littleton said.
The board tabled the issue and a new LCUB water leak adjustment policy. The board will make a decision on installing the meters at a special called meeting at 6 p.m. Monday at City Hall.
If the board decides to move forward with the new meters at $35 a piece, Littleton said resolving the issue is still a couple years away.
"For roughly $350,000, that gets us our customer base plus an adequate amount of inventory to make the meter change-out program going," Littleton said.
"This is all going to take time," he said. "Once we gain approval from the board and put AMR metering, this zone metering in, we're probably still a couple years out from making some significant system improvements."
In other business, the board:
● Authorized the gas, water and sewer department to declare a 1999 Ford F-250 as surplus to sell on http://www.GovDeals.com.
● Authorized purchasing a Ford F-250 from a state bid to replace the 1999 model.
● Approved an amended LCUB drug and alcohol policy. "I want to legally get with counsel plus ask the board how deep do we want to go on a background check before someone is able to gain employment at LCUB? Many times we don't do that," Littleton said. "I think we have a great group of employees and, hopefully, we won't have any of those issues, but as we get larger and your hiring pool is larger you don't know what kinds of issues you're going to run into. We don't currently do that, but that's something I think we should do in the future."
● Approved a LCUB uniform policy. Board members were shown the new employee uniforms. "I just hope as much money as we've spent on these uniforms that you certainly follow through with making them wear them because we spent a lot of money, not counting a lot of time has been spent on it," Lenoir City Mayor Tony Aikens said.
● Received an update on a Norfolk Southern water line abandonment. Littleton said a decision should be made over the next several days. "We do think we'll have about a $300,000 price tag. C Street may be our best route if we have to go offsite," he said.
● Approved a contract with Canon & Canon, Inc., for professional engineering services associated with the new, four-laned bridge at Fort Loudoun Dam.
LCUB will have to move water, gas and sewer lines.
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