Sewer hike meeting set

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By Damon Lawrence

It could be months before Roane County finalizes a State Revolving Fund loan to pay for a sewer expansion in Midtown.
However, the state requirement of a public meeting to inform people about the financial impact and allow input is still scheduled for Thursday at 6:15 p.m. at the Roane County Courthouse in Kingston.
The county sewer plant is a few miles up the road from the site of the future hospital.
“That’s the catalyst for the whole thing,” Roane County Executive Ron Woody said. “That and the physicians plaza. We’re going to have to have sewer down there to service the new hospital and all the other businesses that want to locate in there.”
County sewer customers could soon feel the price of the expansion in their checkbooks.
Stan Malone, chairman of the Roane County Board of Public Utilities, said raising sewer rates is one of the things that must be done in order to get the loan.
On March 1, the flat residential rate for customers will increase from $25 to $31.50. The commercial rate will increase from a minimum of $47.10 to $59.35.
“The state, once we sent them everything, they said you got to pledge all this, this, this and you got to do your rate increase,” Woody said, “so the public utility board just took the recommendation of the state.”
Utility Director Gene McClure said he’s only gotten a few calls from customers about the rate increase. McClure added that he’d be surprised if a bunch of upset people showed up for the meeting.
“I think they understand that what we’re doing is going to be good for the whole county,” he said. “It’s going to be a step in the right direction.”
The rate increase will not just impact users. McClure said it also applies to people who have access to the county sewer system, but don’t use it.
While the hospital is the catalyst behind the expansion, officials said residents living in the Midtown area should also benefit.
“It was just a logical process to try to extend the sewer to help people with failing septic tanks and businesses that need to locate here that will help our unemployment rate,” McClure said.
“We got some residential areas in there that individual sewer is failing,” Woody added. “We recognize that we need to be in the area anyway.”