Town of Alamo released from board oversight in water and wastewater financial issues

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The town of Alamo has been released from the Tennessee Water and Waste Water Financing board’s (TWWFB) oversight.

As of books closing on the 2017 fiscal year, Alamo had three consecutive years of operating losses in the water and sewer department.

After letters requesting for the town to be released from oversight were submitted by Alamo Mayor John Avery Emison, TWWFB determined that the town would be released from the board’s oversight and the case would be closed.

The town at the time was undercharging the operating cost by about 45 percent. With rate increases and many changes over the past three years, the town was released from the boards oversight.

“This is an enormous step forward for the Town of Alamo water/sewer utility,” said Emison. “I am especially pleased that we have actually reduced the cost of operating our water and sewer utilities year-over-year the past two years. This is unheard of in public water/wastewater treatment. We have addressed all the known vulnerabilities at our water plant with a $404,000 grant last year, and we are addressing deficiencies in our sewer plant and system with a $464,000 grant this year. Likewise, we obtained resolution from the Environmental Protection Agency on contaminated groundwater treatment last year without drastic measures, and avoided the need to excavate potentially several properties on or near Court Square.”

 Part of Emison’s request to TWWFB included:

In the first month I took office in 2017 we eliminated improper credits that had been applied for years to the water/sewer bills of several retired firemen and other former employees and officials.

We enacted each and every policy that your office recommended as resolutions and/or Ordinances, and we applied them rigorously.

We reduced the cost of maintenance of our three water tanks by approximately 10-percent per year by simply asking for a quote from potential competitors.

For the first time ever, Alamo adopted a 10-year capital plan for our water/sewer systems.

We applied for and received a $404,000 CDBG grant to upgrade our water plant, eliminating two significant vulnerabilities, namely the lack of an emergency backup generator and a second, redundant air-stripping tower.

We worked with TDEC and EPA to complete EPA’s thirty-something-year-long study of SVOCs in the groundwater of our public water supply, resulting in the issuance of a interim Record of Decision (ROD). The ROD adopted an alternative that we supported because it would not place additional cost on our ratepayers, at the same time ensuring clean water for the public.

We support TDEC’s effort to gain the consent of EPA to reimburse the Alamo water/sewer fund the full amount of our CDBG match (approx. $15,000) because the second air stripper was part of their ROD.

We have understudy employees at both our water and sewer plants who will sit for their operator license tests once TDEC resumes testing.

We assigned approximately $60,000 of the Governor’s grant money to our water/sewer fund in order to conduct smoke testing and video inspection of our sewer mains.

We have conducted a competitive bidding process for the smoke and video inspection, see immediately above, that will cost significantly less than what we originally planned.

We have submitted a CDBG grant of nearly a half million dollars to upgrade our sewer plant and sewer mains and manholes. The decision is due any day and we have a “plan B” if the grant is not funded. (Since this was sent, the town was awarded another $464,000 CDBG grant to upgrade the sewage collection system and sewage treatment plant.)

We changed out some old systems at our sewer plant to operate on a flow-proportional basis, resulting in dramatically less water usage.

We conducted a water meter replacement campaign resulting in additional water sales.

All members of the Alamo Board of Mayor and Aldermen are current in training requirements.

These activities as well as good old-fashioned supervision have yielded predictable results. As you can see from the table below, our revenue has steadily climbed and our operating expenses have actually declined.

In 2017, town revenue was $590,169, expenses $750,144 and a loss of $159,975. An unaudited account without CDBG grant or expenses and equipment included indicates that 2020 revenue is $1,032,635, expenses are $725,907 and income is in the positive at $306,728.

I hope you will agree that the term “financial distress” no longer applies to the Alamo water/sewer fund. We are on sound financial footing.

I ask that you put the release of Alamo on that agenda and let us continue to do the work that we have set our hands to.

This decision was made by TWWFB on November 19 to release the town of Alamo from board oversight.

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