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Bell Buckle applies for sewer grant

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Hoping to pay for state mandated sewer upgrades, Bell Buckle's town council voted to reapply for a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and to request Rural Development funding.

The council voted to apply for the CDBG with the town to pay 30 percent, about $161,700 with the grant side at $377,300.

The CDBG request is for an equalization basin at the sewer plant which would store all of the inflow and infiltration during wet weather, rather than bypassing it, and then run it through the treatment plant when the flows go back down.

Also approved were two funding requests from Rural Development for a $180,000 sewer system evaluation project, which is part of the Corrective Action Plan (CAP) mandated by the state and another request for the equalization basin at a cost of $540,000.

According to engineer Jim Patterson, the amount of the split between Rural Development and the town won't be known until they know what kind of money they have. It could be anywhere from a 25 percent grant or even no grant, the town won't know until the project is approved.

"You don't know until they approve the project and then they'll tell you at that time, based on the funds they have available how much of it will be a loan and how much will be a grant," Patterson said. The town is hoping for a 25 percent grant and 75 percent loan, which would be a "best case scenario."

The time line the town is operating under the state order is based on the state's approval of the CAP, which has not been given the green light yet, buying the town some time.

The proposed 70/30 split of the CDBG will, hopefully, give Bell Buckle a better chance of getting funded. The Rural Development funding is basically "plan B" if the CDBG grant request fails.

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation issued a Director's Order on March 29 concerning problems with the town's sewer system.

According to the state order, there were 61 instances of bypass overflow with the waste water system which allowed an estimated 1.6 million gallons of partially treated wastewater to enter Bell Buckle Creek.

Last month, Mayor Linda Key was informed by Philip Trauernicht, director of Tennessee's Department of Economic and Community Development, that Bell Buckle's project "did not rank high enough to be funded" by a CDBG.

While Bell Buckle had a director's order, it was issued two months too late to affect point status. A commissioner's order gets more points that a director's order, Key said.

One figure on the list was "Community Need," which the mayor said "we can't do a thing in the world about that figure" because it is taken from Bedford County's unemployment numbers.

Another figure was "Project Need" and if the town has received the director's order two months earlier, "we would have gotten extra points there," Key said.

"Project Impact" is the project cost per person which is "ranked according to how everyone else has ranked." Last year Bell Buckle asked for $474,000 for the sewer project, which came to $2,400 per household while those communities at the top of the grant list had a project impact of $24 per household.

The "Project Impact" figure indicates that the town needs to apply for less grant money next time. "Project Impact" is also based on water and sewer rates and their recent rate increase was approved after Bell Buckle applied for the grant.

When the application for the grant was made, all the numbers were "set in stone," Key said. A total of 36 communities applied for the CDBG this year, the same number as last year.

Bell Buckle has already developed a CAP and a Management Operations and Maintenance program, (MOM) which would contain the goals of the project ordered by TDEC.

The town has a year to implement the CAP after the state approves it and would be able request one extension. When the town reapplies for the grant, it would be another year before approval was known.

No monetary fine was mentioned in the TDEC order, but it does state that "compliance with the order will be one factor considered in any decision whether to take enforcement action against the respondent in the future. Failure to comply with this order will result in additional penalties."

Also as a result of the state order, Bell Buckle will not be able to make any further connections, line extensions or allow increased flows to the waste water collection system except for those connections which are already legally committed.

Bell Buckle had received a $400,000 CDBG grant in 2003 for slip lining, a method used in the sewer collection system to try to reduce the amount of inflow and infiltration that comes into the sewer plant.

In other business:

* An ordinance failed to increase the R-I zone to a minimum lot size of 20,000 square feet, up from 15,000 square feet.

* Action was deferred on a request from Mike Rhodes for dedication of water/sewer lines on the Bell Buckle/Wartrace Road.

* A water tap was approved for Brian Townsend and five water taps were given the thumbs up for Harold Segroves. Both properties are on Happy Valley Road.

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