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LOANS FOR WATER

The project will be funded with a 20-year, $1.875 million loan with an interest rate of 0.95 percent and $625,000 in principal forgiveness that will not have to be repaid. The State Revolving Fund Loan Program provides low-interest loans that help communities, utility districts and water and wastewater authorities finance projects in the interest of protecting Tennessee ground, surface and drinking water. Of the $4.4 million in loans awarded this month, a combined $1.47 million in loans were also awarded to the town of Carthage in Smith County, Tenn., for water meter replacements and water treatment system improvements.

Warren County (Tenn.) Utility District customers won't have to worry as much about water supply problems from extremes of drought and flooding thanks to a loan package announced this month that will help fund a $2.5 million water plant improvement project.

Mike Green, manager of the utility based in McMinnville, said improvements underway over recent years are aimed at improving the utility's ability to provide ample quantities of drinking water no matter what the weather is doing.

"We've been working on this for a couple of years, at least, trying to get all the permits from the different agencies," Green said Thursday. "What we really want to do is to make sure our customers have water 24/7."

"We're hoping to start by summer 2016," he said.

Green said officials learned from flooding in the 1990s that the utility's pumps weren't foolproof if water levels rose.

New submersible pumps are not so susceptible in rising flood water, and Green said crews will go deep into the Cumberland Plateau with the water intake installation to make sure the utility taps solidly into the water table.

The project also includes a pump station and control building that will further improve supply capabilities.

"It will help all 8,000 customers," Green said. The utility serves residents in Warren, Grundy, DeKalb, Van Buren, Cannon and Sequatchie counties.

The 20-year loan will be repaid through customer fees. A $2 rate increase could be coming in January to pay for current and new projects, he said. The minimum monthly bill, in that case, would increase to $24.

When the project is completed, the utility will have added two water pumps to three existing pumps with one more pump to be placed on standby, Green said.

Water treatment plant operator Bridgette Powers, who has worked at the Warren County Utility District for 35 years, said the improvements will be meaningful to all the utility's customers.

Warren County "is the nursery capital of the world, and an old nurseryman told me once that water has always been our cheapest luxury," Powers said.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or twitter.com/BenBenton or www.facebook.com/ben.benton1 or 423-757-6569.

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