The Union Ridge waterline extension project in Wartrace is underway. Contractors, developers, and several local officials met Wednesday to discuss the next steps to take.
Many Union Ridge residents have contaminated wells that contain E. coli and sulfur. They have been asking for city water for over 30 years, but the town of Wartrace has never had adequate funds.
Now, through a $1.2 million dollar Community Development Block Grant with funds from Bedford County’s American Rescue Plan, the project to expand waterlines from Red Hill Road to Lazy Branch has been approved. The contractor will be Ward Construction while Robert Stigall will be the engineer.
The “three pots of money” complicates the invoice payments and pay requests process, according to Lorie Fisher, Economic and Community Development Director for South Central Tennessee Development District.
“This one is a little bit more complicated because we have the County—has their grant money paying part of the bill—the town’s paying part of the bill through their local funds, and then also, the town has a grant,” she explained. “But hopefully we will coordinate this.” The payments from the City and County will be a few days apart.
Funds for this project will come from:
- Wartrace's ARP funds
- funds from the County's Community Development Block Grant (CDBG)
- funds from Wartrace's CDBG
No money will be coming from the County, according to former District 1 Commissioner Don Gallagher.
Wednesday’s meeting went over a few requirements the project must follow in order to keep within the parameters of the grant.
Fisher said the whole purpose of the grant is to serve low to moderate income people. That is, the service line from the meter to the house is paid for by the grant for the low to moderate income households.
An income survey was conducted to determine who on Union Ridge would fall under these economic categories.
“At the conclusion of that survey, it was mostly low to moderate income people. In fact, I think there were only two people from the project who were high income,” said Fisher. “So, to show that these people are served, we have to put in that service line.”
It also requires that the Tap fee, which is $1700, be waived for the low to moderate income residents.
However, Fisher said what they want to avoid is after the installation of the service line, residents continuing to use their well water in addition to getting their free Tap service—that is, “cross connection.” (Wells can still be used for outside faucets).
Fisher recounted a project in Lawarence County where after a service line was installed many residents decided to not pay for water, which wasted the grant funds and expense of the waterline installation. The county mayor ended up paying the contractor out of their county money to remove service lines, according to Fisher.
In order to avoid this, Wartrace will send out a letter requiring interested households to sign a contract within a 45-day period. Wartrace’s water fees cost $75 for homeowners and $150 for renters.
But “This is a one-shot deal. When the contractor is there, he’s not coming back,” Fisher explained.
This is crucial to do because these waterlines can only serve up to 50 households. Currently, 43 households have signed up for waterlines. Those numbers may change as residents decide they don’t want to pay for water.
“So, we have to be careful if more people want to build up there,” said Fisher.
The town hoped to serve more people with the installation of a water tank but with the price of steel rising, it was not feasible in the budget.
The project is expected to take 180 days and is planned to be completed in February of 2023.
Many residents and town officials will agree this project has been a long time coming as application for this grant began in the fall of 2019.
“If it was easy, they’d already have water,” said Stigall.