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Spencer Aldermen Respond To Comptroller, Approve Discussing Utility District Options

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
Spencer Aldermen Respond To Comptroller, Approve Discussing Utility District Options

The Spencer Board of Aldermen approved exploring options with the Warren County Utility District on the city’s water system Thursday.

The action was needed since the State Comptroller’s Office has mandated Spencer to consider alternatives on how it operates its water system. Engineer Nathaniel Green said with so many options to explore, the city needed to start conversations.

“It can be everything from Spencer hires themselves a manager or somebody to keep track of everything all the way to the other end where the water system and the sewer system become assets of Warren County Utility District owned and operated by them,” Green said. “Those are the two ends of the spectrum that I see you being on, and we’ve got to look at everything in between.”

The State Comptroller’s Water and Wastewater Financing Board has stated that a merger would be the best long-term solution for Spencer.

Alderman Jody Hensley asked Green if a merge with new management was inevitable. Green said it’s not necessarily inevitable, but that’s the direction the Comptroller’s Office is going. Green said depreciation of the city’s water system is a large part of that.

“That is a mounting issue, and we’ve talked to everybody that we could think of to talk to about depreciation and we can’t get it to a reasonable number,” Green said. “For that reason, and I just have not seen Spencer at this point in time being capable of doing that the way things currently are.”

Green said he recommends for the Warren County Utility District to completely take over for stability purposes. Green said elected officials running the utility district means new people will enter office regularly.

“I’ve had that recommendation for so long is because eventually you need the stability,” Green said. “Because one election cycle, everybody goes off, people come on and don’t know what’s going on. People say I am going to lower rates. Nobody is going to lower rates here. It is never going to happen. It can’t. The State Comptroller won’t let you. In fact right now, you are running at a 22 percent deficit.”

Green said one of the ways the city can get out of the depreciation without funding it is by transferring the assets to another entity. In order for Spencer to answer depreciation costs now, the average customer would need to pay an additional $30 on their water and sewer bill, according to Green. Surrounding utilities only charge $7-10.

Mayor Mickey Robinson said he is against the water system being turned over to another entity. Robinson sited a healthy water fund of $1.6 million and no water violations since 2019 as reasons why Spencer should maintain ownership.

As for the study over the water system mandated by the Comptroller’s Office, Green said he is working with the Tennessee Association of Utility Districts to do the work. Spencer must have an entity under contract by the end of June


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