The town of Signal Mountain is getting started on replacing specific fire hydrants that don't meet flow standards. That short-term project will be the first check mark on a long-term to-do list created by Town Manager Honna Rogers.
Her other goals for the year, which are expected to be done incrementally between now and next March, include establishing a capital project plan, identifying a plan and schedule for overall water system improvements, formalizing employee workplace safety standards and training, and personally completing state-mandated requirements to become a certified municipal finance officer.
"The capital plan is about capital improvements [in excess of $10,000] that need to be made town-wide, mainly on facilities. When are certain roofs going to need to be repaired or replaced? Or heating and air units; bigger things," Rogers explained. "I'm trying to get us on a schedule and get a little longer-range plan to also help us with funding and creating the budget.
"We used to have that, but there was no revenue to match it so I kind of found it useless," she said. "It was just like play money; every year all we did was move it back a year."
Unlike the vehicle replacement fund Rogers helped implement last year, establishing the capital plan does not include creating a separate fund for identified improvements at this point, although it is expected to help the budgeting process. The road map provided would give officials not only cost estimates and timelines for required improvements and maintenance, but also help them view unrelated priorities and needs as part of the bigger picture, Rogers said.
She stressed that this is "not so the town can get new fancy buildings." Last year's budget process had to be amended to allow for thousands of dollars worth of re-siding at Town Hall that had been needed and neglected for years.
Likely to be on the capital improvements list is a phased process to overhaul the town's water distribution system. A study completed last year by Arcadis Engineering identified issues and future needs, but a deluge of money will be needed in order to complete the recommendations.
"This is even more of a longer-range plan, even looking at if we want to look at different areas, do we want to do priorities like doing cast iron, so we can look at what the rates are and are they sufficient to achieve that," said Rogers.
"We're not going to wait until that entire long-range plan is done until we start doing some repairs for that," she said in reference to the hydrant replacements.
The hydrants in need of upgrading are located throughout the town; where the town will start hasn't been identified yet, Rogers said. The minor repair work - "a lot of them are just like one small line that needs to be replaced" - should not flood residents with hassles during the project, she said.
"They will have temporary outages where the water may be out, but we're talking hours at the most," said Rogers. "It'll be a lot quicker than if the lines break."