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Town looking into waterworks project; utility sale talk on hold
Updated on: 06.21.13

The Nashville Town Council is stepping back from the thought of selling its water utility.

At a June 6 special meeting, members had agreed to put all options on the table, with the utility spending more than it took in for five out of the past six months.

The town’s water infrastructure is aging, council President Bob Kirlin noted, and council members don’t want to raise rates again on customers who already shouldered a double-digit-percentage water and sewer rate increase in the past year.

The utility has to cut about $161,000 in the next six months, town Clerk-Treasurer Brenda Young had told the council.

“We brought it to your attention because we wanted you to do something,” she clarified at the June 20 meeting. “We want you to see that it is forefront, that we are very cautious, and that we’re watching every dime.

“… However, we are not bringing it to you that it is sinking and you need to sell it. We are bringing it to you that you need to figure out — it’s just like taking care of your vehicle; it’s like taking care of your home. These are old lines.”

She and Town Superintendent Roger Bush reported that the utility is right-side up in its finances for June.

Bush said he hadn’t made cuts yet on paper, but that he and Young had been working on solutions.

They advised board members against selling the utility, given the broader financial picture.

“My opinion, as your fiscal officer, and the town clerk, and a resident here, is that there are many options besides selling the utility, definitely,” Young said. “We are not that far in debt. Our debt ratio, what we owe compared to our fixed assets that we own, in the water utility, I cannot imagine us giving that up, because we have acquired really good fixed assets.”

The town is getting close to paying off a loan it took out in 1977 to make waterworks improvements, she said. The town pays about $33,000 on that $568,000 loan each year, with about $110,000 left to pay.

With that debt getting ready to roll off the books in 2017, Young and Bush suggested the council invest again in infrastructure improvements, as no major work has been done since 1995. That $603,000 project, to improve water delivery lines, the town also is paying off about $32,000 at a time, until 2035.

“It’s not unheard of to go into another water distribution project, which we should be anyway,” Young said. “Because we need to improve these lines. They don’t just stay there. They need to be improved.”

She believes it can be done for about the same amount the town is paying now.

USDA Rural Development, which helped secure the earlier loans, has been in contact with the town about how that agency can help, she said.

“Of course, we have people wanting to buy us, too,” she said. “But we’re not that far in the hole. It’s just going to take some good management; you need to make some decisions, in my opinion … and you have your superintendent looking at suggestions of improvements so we’re not losing so much in water loss.”

“I think we’ve taken it off the table,” Kirlin said about the possible sale of the utility.

Bush and council member Charles “Buzz” King still plan to meet with Brown County Water Utility, from which the town buys 95 percent of its water.

The council instructed Bush to come up with a two-year plan for how to substantially improve the water utility to present at the August meeting, and work on a longer-range plan for the council to consider.

-- Sara Clifford, Brown County Democrat 

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