Bill would fix foulup blocking sewer authority loans

Two legislators are looking for an emergency patch after a law they passed last year to dissolve Hamilton County’s sewer authority in 2011 cost the agency access to loans, reports the Times-Free Press.

State officials balked at approving some $13 million in new revolving loans for the Hamilton County Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority because it wasn’t clear what successor entity or local government would repay them if the WWTA went away.

“Someone in the attorney general’s office put a stop on those” loans, said Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah. “We got notice the state revolving funds were not coming.”

Carter and Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, say they thought the loan issue had been resolved last year … Watson’s bill (SB951) to address the concerns and permit new loans from the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Program is scheduled for Senate floor action this afternoon. But Watson said he may delay a final vote… “just to make sure everybody understands you can’t walk away from these state funds.”

WWTA owns and operates the public sewer system in the unincorporated areas of Hamilton County as well as the municipalities of East Ridge, Lakesite, Lookout Mountain, Red Bank, Ridgeside, Signal Mountain and Soddy-Daisy.

The agency took in the municipalities years ago and ever since has been working to address decades of neglect by replacing sewer lines and lateral lines from residences, businesses and other entities that hook into the system.

…Carter, who once served as WWTA’s attorney, represents a number of unincorporated areas in the county. He has made no secret of his view that past WWTA administrations overreached by picking up other cities’ sewer systems and thinks it would be more practical to have unincorporated areas in one entity and the former municipally owned areas in another one.

Watson has said his purpose has been to get WWTA to think through its mission. He said last year’s law had the “potential” to dissolve the WWTA through a reorganization process.

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