published Thursday, May 31st, 2012

East Ridge resumes sewer takeover talk

IF YOU GO

A public hearing to discuss the city budget and the possibility of East Ridge starting its own water and wastewater treatment authority will be held at 5:30 p.m. today at East Ridge City Hall, 1517 Tombras Ave.

East Ridge is furthering discussions about whether to start its own sewer authority -- though it's still unclear whether the city actually will be able to take back its sewer lines.

The city's sewer lines were sold over a decade ago to the Hamilton County Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority.

Tonight East Ridge is holding a public hearing to discuss -- and possibly vote on -- forming its own WWTA. But city officials have yet to contact the authority about purchasing the lines, said WWTA attorney Chris Clem.

"We read about them having these discussions in the paper, but they've never approached us to look into it," Clem said. "They can form whatever group they want, but they can't have any of the assets unless we sell them."

While several councilmen have indicated they're ready to vote on the issue, City Manager Tim Gobble said the city is still in "talking stages."

"We are still waiting for the financial records that the mayor requested indicating that they lose money on the city of East Ridge, which they've previously indicated," Gobble said. "Based on other records that we have seen, that does not seem to be the case."

Clem stressed that the agency gives "extremely detailed, broken down financial reports" to each of its commissioners every month, including its East Ridge representative.

The lines would cost several million dollars to purchase, WWTA officials estimate.

But whether they could be up for sale is questionable in light of current mandates from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation requiring the WWTA to overhaul all of its sewer lines.

East Ridge looked into buying the lines several years ago and decided then it would be too expensive, Clem said.

During a public hearing two weeks ago, councilmen looked over a 2009 engineering report that indicated the city could profit from running its own sewer system.

Contact staff writer Kate Harrison at kharrison@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6673.

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