Log in Subscribe
Thursday online news topic

Union Ridge to finally get waterlines

By ZOË HAGGARD - zhaggard@t-g.com
Posted 3/31/22

Wartrace’s Board of Mayor and Alderman meeting unanimously passed the resolution to go forward with the extension of waterlines up to Union Ridge.

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in
Thursday online news topic

Union Ridge to finally get waterlines


After 30 years of asking for access to City water, over 40 residents of Union Ridge in Wartrace will have access to city water versus their contaminated wells and ground water.

According to Duck River Utility Commission’s laboratory services sample report, 24 out of 45 resident wells tested positive for E. Coli in 2020. There is a significant amount of animal feces, according to this report and Randall Braker of DRUC. Many residents had to use mobile cisterns, buy water from the City, then haul it back up to the ridge.  

Wartrace’s Board of Mayor and Alderman recently, unanimously, passed the resolution to go forward with the extension of waterlines up to Union Ridge. 

The resolution was presented to the board by County Commissioner, and former Wartrace mayor, Don Gallagher. Originally, a water tank was also going to be constructed. However, rising steel prices and lack of funds meant the town could only afford the waterlines.

According to Gallagher, a tank would benefit the whole water system and serve up to 300 people. The waterline alone can serve up to 50 households. There are just over 40 households on Union Ridge.

The total cost for the waterline extension construction, by Williamson Construction Co., will be $893,857.

Wartrace will use $201,000 of its federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds as well as contribute $137,196 in matching grants. The County will contribute just under $48,000 from its ARP funds. Together this will make up the remaining costs after the state grant of $625,000 is used.

According to Wartrace Mayor Cindy Drake, the town will be out of pocket just over $338,000 for the waterlines.

Water bills in Wartrace are $70 per month, according to Gallagher. This, multiplied by the 40 households, will provide $33,000 per year. It would make up Wartrace’s matching grant (of $137,000) for the waterline in about 4 years.

Delays, delays, and more delays

Several Union Ridge residents attended the meeting to ask why the project had been so delayed and when they will have access.

Union Ridge resident Chris Whitney asked why the waterline hadn’t been constructed despite a resolution being passed two years ago to initiate the process of getting water.

Mayor Drake said, “Because of COVID, we couldn’t get things...It’s a long process.”

Gallagher further explained by saying bids went out in November of last year for waterlines and a water tank. However, the bids were too expensive. The City of Wartrace along with their

engineer Robert Stegal redesigned the tank to be smaller. The bids went out again March 10, but they were still over budget.

So, “right now, tonight, their [the board’s] concern is to approve spending the $200,000 of their ARP money and approving the bid from Williamson.”

Local resident Amanda Whitney spoke during the citizen comments describing how her child has suffered from bouts of diarrhea due to E. Coli contamination in their wells.

“Unfortunately, the way the housing market is and how everything is now, I don’t care what anybody says, what our property is going for around here, we can’t sell it for that because you can’t get loans for properties that don’t have decent water sources,” she said. “So, if you invest in something, is that to going to benefit the City of Wartrace...to help people in the community build these houses?”

“I mean, we’re on our knees, we’re begging for something. We're asking for help. We are taxpayers. We're just trying to take care of our families,” she said.

Mayor Cindy Drake said, “It’s not like we’re trying to decide where to spend our funds. We’re getting $206,000 in federal ARP funds. This project takes $201,000 of that.”

Other water problems

Drake explained that the City is also having I&I (infiltration and inflow) problems, which is where stormwater infiltrates the sewer system.

Wartrace is also experiencing water loss issues. According to Utility Manager Phil Miller, for every 100 gallons of water bought from the Tullahoma system, Wartrace is losing 54 of those gallons due to leaks from their 100-year-old waterlines. This is costing the City $21,000 per month.

Miller said, “When they use the money that they give you, the make sure that you use it for the things that are important for your system. Doesn't mean that getting clean water to families isn’t important, too.”

Therefore, according to Drake, money coming from another state grant—which the City had hoped would go toward the water tank construction—will go to improving those I&I and water loss issues since the State of Tennessee dictates how Wartrace can spend it.

“So, we’re trying to balance everything and get you guys water,” Drake said. “We’re very limited and we’re trying to do what the state has told us what we have to do and still find a way to get you guys water.”

When construction of the waterline extension will begin is to be determined. But both commissioners and residents expressed their gratitude to getting both current and future Union

Ridge residents clean city water. As the resolution was passed, several Union Ridge residents who attended the meeting expressed their thanks to both the board and Gallagher.