City seeking grant for water improvements

By Thomas Wilson
star staff

  Elizabethton water customers should expect a survey requesting feedback on water quality and service of the city's water system this week as part of the city's efforts to secure grant funding for utility infrastructure improvements.
  The city of Elizabethton is applying for a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to improve the water system. As part of the application process, the city must submit a confidential survey of residential water users. A random survey is being mailed to selected households who are city water system customers. They request water customers complete the survey and return it to the First Tennessee Development District.
  Ken Rea with the First Tennessee Development District (FTDD) said Wednesday the survey is one of the earliest steps in the grant. The surveys can be mailed to the FTDD, which is assisting the city in applying for the grant.
  The grant application must include an engineering report, a resolution passed by the Elizabethton City Council to pursue the grant, and the water use information of a community.
  "It is one of the harder grant packages we have to put together," Rea said.
  The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development annually provides block funding to states. Cities and counties compete for those dollars as grants such as the CDBG administered by a state government. The city won a $500,000 CDBG over four years ago to fund infrastructure improvements for the city of Watauga's utility system.
  States participating in the CDBG Program award grants only to units of general local government that carry out development activities. Annually, each state develops funding priorities and criteria for selecting projects. HUD's role under the state CDBG program is to ensure state compliance with federal laws and regulations.
  Rea said the city's status as a three-star community with the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development is an advantage in the competitive grant process.
  "Elizabethton has been a three-star community and they had to do some work," he said. "That is to their benefit."
  The majority of the city's potable water supply comes from the Hampton and Valley Forge springs as well as the Big Springs site in the lower Gap Creek area.
  The city government has placed particular emphasis on utility infrastructure improvements in recent years.
  The city's wastewater treatment plant underwent a multimillion-dollar expansion five years ago. The city also completed implementation of a new filtration system at the Big Springs Water Plant two years ago after a state environmental mandate directed the city to lower turbidity readings of the plant's water.
  The city is racing both time and physics to replace a transmission line from the Hampton spring source. The water line lies encased in concrete on a badly dilapidated bridge of the old U.S. Highway 19E over the Doe River in Valley Forge.