Rockwood borrows to tackle required sewage changes

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By Cindy Simpson

More than $1.4 million in Rural Development loans were approved last week in Rockwood, enabling Rockwood Water, Sewer and Natural Gas to acquire grants that will allow the city to complete a $2.4 million oxidation ditch project at the wastewater plant this year.

The oxidation ditch typically replaces the sewage aeration tank and provides better sludge treatment using biological organisms. The project is required by a Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation director’s order.

“The intention is not to increase our debt service any more. We just want to capture as much grant money as we can,” said manager Kim Ramsey.

By the city’s acceptance of the loans, the utilities get almost $500,000 in grants to combine with a 2008 Community Development Block grant of $500,000 for the project.

The final breakdown is $500,000 in Community Development Block grant funds, $446,000 in Rural Development grants and the $1.4 million in Rural Development loans.

Ramsey agreed with Councilman Bill Thompson’s plan to have a resolution to have any money left over from the project go toward paying down the debt.

Ramsey said the city has a deadline to complete the projects and spend the CDBG money. The city has not been able to apply for any CDBG funds because the 2008 grant had not been spent, and the utility is at risk of losing those funds if the ball does not get rolling on the project.

Ramsey said the process of Rural Development approving the engineering plans and specifications is four to six weeks.

Originally the project was extended to start this month, but Ramsey now thinks the best-case scenario would be bidding the project in April, bid approval in May and proceeding in June.

Council unanimously approved moving forward on the Rural Development loans.