Sewer improvement project moves forward at higher cost

Nov. 20—A project to improve the city of Crossville's sewer system has grown in price since it was identified as a potential project for American Rescue Plan Act funding.

With bids now in, the city is looking at a price tag $2.5 million more than originally planned.

"Not only do we have the 10% match, we also need to add an additional $2.3 million to the project, which makes the ARPA money look like 50-50 money," Tim Begley, city engineering director, told the Crossville City Council during its Nov. 6 meeting.

The project is part of the city's ongoing effort to reduce groundwater or stormwater that inflows and infiltrates the wastewater collection system — called I and I. That extra water must then be treated before it is released, taking up sewer capacity and adding to treatment costs.

"When you don't have the I and I problem, our sewer has capacity is well within the bounds of what we need at the moment," City Manager Greg Wood said.

Begley explained the city had evaluated sewer lines that cross streams or other water tributaries. They can use video to inspect the lines for cracks and damage.

"We're working all over town, from First St. to Cook Rd. to Old Jamestown back over to Holiday Hills," Begley said. "We're even doing the main line that goes from Sparta Dr. under the Obed River to the sewer plant."

Initial estimates put the project cost around $2.1 million with the city required to match 10%. The project cost began increasing. Estimates in March added $800,000 to the price, with a budget of $3.15 million.

Two bids were received, with a low bid of $4.25 million from Portland Utilities. That brings the total cost to $4.64 million.

Funding is available. City Finance Director Fred Houston said the project would likely fall into two budget years — the current 2024 fiscal year and the 2025 fiscal year.

"Wait toward the end of the year to see if we need to do a budget amendment," Houston said. "If not, we'll put into next year and pick it up there."

Council member Art Gernt moved to approve the bid, supported by Council member Scot Shanks. The motion was unanimously approved.

The city hopes a consultant can help reduce the cost of environmental mitigation required to raise Meadow Park Lake dam and increase the city's raw water storage.

"It's money well spent," Begley said during the Nov. 6 work session. "We'll make this money up with the reduction of mitigation we won't have to do."

In August, the council learned the cost of wetland and stream mitigation required to raise the dam about 18 feet ranged from $50 million to $100 million, and much of that difference stemmed from additional mitigation requirements sought by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.

TDEC called for mitigating the full amount of wetlands — 71.58 acres — and 18,520 feet of streams in the project area.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had said it would require mitigation for 29.73 acres of wetlands and 8,852 feet of streams.

Begley explained the consultant would compile data and other scientific information to justify a lower amount of mitigation on the project, though TDEC would still set the required amount.

The contract was unanimously approved.

In other business, the council approved the following:

—extention of a water line to the Oak Trace subdivision to serve 39 connections and three fire hydrants at a cost of $280,500 to be paid by the owner

—purchase of a control panel and submersible pump for the wastewater treatment plant, with a budget amendment of $67,850.41 for the project

Heather Mullinix is editor of the Crossville Chronicle. She covers schools and education in Cumberland County. She may be reached at