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With questions now swirling as to the efficacy of the town of Signal Mountain's plan to connect its water system to Walden's Ridge Utility District's, the Town Council is postponing its final vote on whether to move ahead.

The interconnect, approved unanimously on first reading Sept. 23, is meant to provide the town with an alternative water source in the event of an emergency.

The council is now waiting until it has the opportunity to meet with engineers and representatives from WRUD before making its final decision.

Addressing the council Oct. 14, town resident Claire Griesinger said she met with William Sanders from the town's water department and representatives from WRUD and expressed her concerns about the council's plan to connect to WRUD's infrastructure.

It is her understanding that the interconnect initially approved would only provide water to a small portion of town residents in the event of an emergency.

After some debate, officials voted Sept. 23 to use the town's existing 6-inch lines at the intersection of Miles Road and Taft Highway, rather than laying a new 12-inch pipe down Miles Road to James Boulevard and possibly continuing the 12-inch pipe farther down James to the town's water tank.

Griesinger said it is her understanding that if the town proceeds with connecting to WRUD's system using the 6-inch lines, the interconnect would be capable of providing water to fewer than 700 of the 3,200 homes in the town. Should the town's water supply go down, the remaining residents would get water from fire department pumping trucks, she said.

"The interconnection should be an insurance policy for the entire town, not just 700 homes," said Griesinger.

Installing a 12-inch line along Miles could accommodate the volume of water necessary to fill the town's tank, without changes to the existing 8-inch line that runs down James to the tank, she said.

According to her information, Griesinger noted that it would not be necessary to dig up or repave Miles to run a 12-inch line, as the line would run alongside the road rather than under.

Mayor Dan Landrum said a 6-inch line would provide the town with 800 gallons a minute. That interconnect option would cost $69,000.

The town's normal usage is about 1,400 gallons per minute, according to Councilman Bill Lusk.

Running a 12-inch line up Miles to connect to James would provide 1,600 gallons per minute, Lusk said. That option would cost about $200,000.

"An emergency interconnect might not be sufficient for a long time, but we might have other problems [with the water system] out there that need to be addressed, and we have money that's held back right now to address those problems," said Landrum.

Griesinger also questioned how much water Signal Mountain would be able to provide to WRUD, which would require moving water to a higher elevation, and whether the town has an agreement with the utility to provide water to Signal Mountain in an emergency.

"I ask the council to take an hour and meet with WRUD before you move forward," she said. "The town should have a line large enough to supply everybody, or at least discuss with our interconnection partner what a 6-inch and a 12-inch pipe would mean for us."

Landrum said that nothing prevents the town from adding a 12-inch line down Miles later, once the town hires a water manager. The new position arose from the council's recent decision to retain its water system rather than sell it to a utility.

Town Manager Boyd Veal said he received an email from WRUD on Oct. 14 stating that after utility representatives spoke with their engineer, a discussion with its board members would be necessary before the utility would proceed with the interconnection.

WRUD questioned how the interconnect would benefit the utility, which would need to purchase a pump to move Signal Mountain's water to its customers, which are at a higher elevation.

Veal said he had a productive meeting with WRUD on Oct. 15 to discuss additional options, and met with the town's water project engineer Oct. 17 to look at ways to optimize the project.

The town then plans to hold a special-called public meeting to decide how to move forward. The date for that meeting had not been set as of press time.

Email Emily Crisman at ecrisman@timesfreepress.com.

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