At a public meeting Thursday night, officials with the Town of Signal Mountain said if the town keeps the water system, the burden to citizens would be between a 25 to 54 percent rate increase to pay for the repairs needed. Officials did not say how long that rate hike would last but that the total expected cost of the repairs was $3 million.
Both Tennessee American Water Company and Walden’s Ridge Utility District have offered to buy the system in response to the town’s request for proposals. WRUD is offering $3.6 million to buy it or manage it if the town selects that option. TAWC is offering $3.4 million to buy the system. Both have committed to freezing rates for five years.
Residents asked questions of the council Thursday night on the feasibility of the town keeping the system and balked at the potential 25-54 percent rate hike. Others advocated for WRUD and its high-quality water, which is from an aquifer.
Signal Mountain resident Mary Hutson said she only recently realized the town even had an option to switch its water source. The town currently buys water from Tennessee American, which is from the Tennessee River. Hutson recounted her experiences with Tennessee American:
“We have not been happy with the quality of the Tennessee American product over the years. When I say that, I know it’s tested, and it’s safe water, but we have not cared for the taste. We first lived in the city of Chattanooga before we moved up here, and we had a terrible experience one night where crews had to come to our home on a Saturday night because of the horrible chemical smell, which to me smelled like pesticides in the water.
Our daughter, who was two at the time, was the first one to drink it. Well, she was the only one. It turned out it was perfectly safe, but we were alarmed when the chemists explained to us it was chlorine and that it was a safe amount of chlorine. But because we lived closer into the distribution center then there was more chlorine in our water so there would be an adequate amount as it went up through the system.
After that we started ordering spring water delivered to the door. We came to Signal Mountain. We still have water delivered to the house because we were told at the time that because of the trip the water has to go up the mountain from downtown, it has more chemicals added – and I guess that’s chlorine – when it gets to the top. So even now, ice trays and water that’s not filtered has a smell so we have a filter in our home for our ice, and we use a water filter on our faucet for our drinking water.
All that to say is we have water. We need it to live, and we are thankful for that. But we were so excited to have a choice. We didn’t know there was ever going to be a choice of another source of water! From what we understand from people who are on Walden’s Ridge water system, we think that it would be something we would like to try. We’re glad that the town [Walden’s Ridge] has a source. We understand it’s from a purer source, not from the Tennessee River and that it tastes better.”
Be Vocal. Choose Local. advocates for the town to choose Walden’s Ridge Utility District. The council did not announce next steps at the meeting Thursday, but their next regular agenda session is Friday, May 25 at 12:30 p.m. The next regular council meeting is Monday, June 11 at 6:30 p.m.
If you haven’t already, please share and sign the petition at https://www.change.org/p/signal-mountain-be-vocal-choose-local-water.