City Seeks up to $1 Million in Disaster Recovery Grant Funds for Sewer Rehab

December 9, 2010
by: 
Dwayne Page

The City of Smithville is making application for up to one million dollars in Disaster Recovery CDBG Funds from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development to ensure that much needed rehabilitation of the sewer system is met to avoid any problems that may arise in the event of severe flooding.

Mayor Taft Hendrixon said Monday night during the city council meeting that funds are available due to floods which occurred last May." I was approached about a week and a half ago by the Upper Cumberland Development District concerning about a $10 million pot of money for the fourteen county area for the May flood disaster. They asked if we wanted to be involved in this and I said certainly so. We had a public hearing and decided that probably our most pressing thing right now for infrastructure is the infiltration of water into the waste water treatment plant during floods. The Upper Cumberland Development District has prepared a resolution which they must have before they can proceed with it. We'd like to get that passed tonight."

The resolution states as follows:

"Whereas, the City of Smithville is eligible for grant funds under the Disaster Recovery Funds Community Development Block Grant Program administered by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development; and

Whereas, the City of Smithville is taking into account the long term recovery and planning of the City due to the severity of flooding on May 2nd, 2010,

Whereas, the City realized they lack certain equipment to deal with an emergency of that magnitude;

Whereas, the City of Smithville needs to ensure the much needed rehabilitation of sewer is met to avoid any problems that may arise if other similar flooding were to occur and

Whereas, sewer rehabilitation projects are eligible activities under the Disaster Recovery Funds Community Development Block Grant Program; and

Whereas, Smithville is eligible for a maximum grant of one million dollars under the Community Development Block Grant; and

Now, therefore be it resolved by the Mayor and City Council that the Mayor be authorized and directed to:

Execute and submit an application for Community Development Block Grant funds to the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development in order to provide an adequate sewer service for the community

Enter into the necessary agreements with the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development to receive and administer said grant funds.

Execute necessary agreements for Administrative services without further action by the commission, contingent upon approval by the funding agencies.

The Upper Cumberland Development District shall prepare all necessary documents for the completion of said application for the proposed project at no charge to the City of Smithville. Should said CDBG grant be approved, UCDD shall be engaged to perform all administrative services for said project."

The aldermen adopted the resolution.

In other business, the council approved a resolution establishing a $30 per day fee for the impoundment and storage of seized vehicles by the Smithville Police Department.

The resolution states as follows: "Whereas, the Smithville City Police Department, has the authority to make and execute traffic stops within the City limits of Smithville; and

Whereas, the Smithville City Police Department, has a vehicle impound lot; and

Whereas, the Smithville City Police Department, has just cause to impound vehicles for various traffic offenses; and

Whereas, the City of Smithville is entitled to charge and collect a reasonable impound and storage fee on these vehicles;

Now, therefore be it resolved, by the Mayor and Board of Aldermen of the City of Smithville that a charge of thirty dollars per day is hereby assessed on each and every vehicle that has been seized or impounded by the Smithville Police Department for a violation of the Tennessee Motor Vehicle Laws and/or City Ordinances.

This resolution rescinds a previous resolution regarding this issue.

In other business, the aldermen voted to spend about $1,800 to fertilize and overseed the greens at the golf course.

Alderman Steve White raised the issue."The greens at the golf course. They did aerate them back in September but they did not overseed and fertilize. This would cost approximately $1,800. I think it would be well in our interest to go ahead and get those greens taken care of and that should hold them through the winter. If we don't, they're going to be in a whole lot worse shape come spring. It really should have been done in September."

The aldermen voted to pay $3,512 to replace carpet for the Business and Professional Women's Club. The carpet is used during the organization's annual beauty pageants. The club had stored their old carpet in a warehouse building across from city hall. That building was demolished during the summer. The carpet was destroyed in the process.

Alderman Aaron Meeks said the city had little choice but to pay the bill to replace the carpet. "The purchase was authorized by an employee of the city (Hunter Hendrixson) who is authorized to make purchases, therefore the merchant delivered the merchandise under the assumption that he was selling to an authorized individual, which he was, so I don't think we have any choice but to pay that amount for the purchase."

Meeks added that "If we are storing anything else for other people, or if in the future we store for other people, I think we should get them to sign something stating that they are liable for the loss and not the city."

Alderman W.J. (Dub) White suggested that the aldermen take action to reduce the limit for which purchases may be made by city officials without board approval to no more than $500. The mayor and other aldermen voiced concerns about White's suggestion. No action was taken.

The aldermen voted against making an adjustment to the water/sewer bill of Regal Craft Kitchens. John Daniels addressed the aldermen last month, stating that his company recently received a water bill from the city for $3,300 for a one month period when the bill is normally around twelve dollars a month. Daniels asked that the city remove the sewer charges on the bill and allow him to make payments on the water bill. Mayor Taft Hendrixson said last month that the water meter was removed for testing and it checked out okay. There were also apparently no obvious water leaks. Daniels said he couldn't understand why the bill was so high.

The issue was brought up for discussion again Monday night. Since there was no evidence to prove that the water did not go through the sewer system, the aldermen voted against adjusting Daniels' bill.

Mayor Hendrixson explained that "What we do for large water usage, is if it didn't go through the sewer, we usually take the sewer (charges) off the bill and charge for the water. The state of Tennessee will not let us give away water, nor do we want to."

Alderman Steve White added "I don't think anybody has shown that the water didn't go through the sewer and by checking the meter and it being correct, the water did go through. It went through the sewer also. Personally, I can't see where we would be able to give any type of a break. Usually we set up some payment plan on it but I wouldn't want it to be for too many months. I think four or five months would be long enough."

Waniford Cantrell, city resident, taxpayer, and former mayor, addressed the mayor and aldermen with a concern. Cantrell believes the city is selling water to the DeKalb Utility District at below cost.

Several weeks ago, Cantrell pointed out to the mayor and aldermen that the city had budgeted a 43% water rate increase for it's own customers, compared to a 9 1/4% increase for the DeKalb Utility District.

Cantrell asked that the city conduct a study to determine the cost of producing water. Since then, the city's financial consultant prepared some cost figures. But Cantrell, speaking Monday night during the council meeting, said he has no confidence in the report. "I reviewed this thing and I'm having a problem with it. I have no confidence in the cost they show on the report. As a good example, on the report it shows $84,000 in depreciation. But your actual budget last year and actual costs that you show was $100,000. That's $16,000 bucks (difference) but if you add all this together it's going to increase the costs of your water."

"The study didn't have any methodology used in how they come up with the figures. There are no assumptions listed but there had to be some kind of assumptions because some of the figures are showing at 100%, some at 50%, and some at 25%. So I don't know how they came up with the assumptions. There was no pro-rated interest expense and no pro-rated consultant expense. These are just to name a few. Really what they came up with in my opinion is useless. I'm not a certified cost accountant but I have some cost accounting experience."

"The only way you're going to actually determine the cost of water is to get a cost accountant, sit him down and let him do it. He could do it in two or three days, if not less."

The aldermen took no action on Cantrell's suggestion Monday night.

George Oliver of the Smithville Rotary Club asked the city for a donation of maybe $200 to help provide Christmas baskets to 80 senior citizens this year.

The aldermen took no action.

Gary Durham, city resident and taxpayer, addressed the mayor and aldermen expressing his opinion that the city should establish a 10 year or 20 year plan which would put the city in a better position to prepare for future needs regarding maintenance and or expansion of city services. Durham said the city had a long range plan covering the period 1984-2004 but it seems that nothing has been done in recent years to update it.

Durham also questioned why the city has limits for property right's voting in city elections. Durham said it's unfair to prohibit people who own a business (property) in the city but who live outside the city from voting in city elections just because they don't meet a specific lot size requirement.

Alderman Shawn Jacobs responded saying "Most municipalities do not allow property rights voting, we're one of the few who do but there has to be limits."

The term "property rights voter" applies to those people who live inside DeKalb County but outside the city limits and yet they own property inside the city limits. The Smithville Charter allows property rights voting. It does have a (city property) size requirement of at least 7,500 square feet.

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