Rocky Top set to get $800K for sewers

Rocky Top is on tap to get an $800,000 loan – of which about 70 percent would be “forgiven” – to help pay for improvements to the city’s sewer system to prevent stormwater runoff from overwhelming the treatment plant.

City Manager Michael Foster said during last Thursday’s City Council meeting that most of the money is now in place to complete the sewer system upgrades the city has been working on for the past several years.

“We’re finally close to getting our system up to date,” he told the council.

Rocky Top is nearing the end of its sewer upgrades just as nearby Norris gears up to fix its own similar problems under an order from the state’s environmental regulators. Rocky Top got out in front of its sewer problems before they had time to become an issue with the state, so it avoided fines and orders from the state for violations such as Norris was cited for earlier this year.

Water line improvements will be next, Foster indicated. A lot of water lines are still unmapped and their locations either unknown or known only to longtime current and former utility department workers, Foster said.

The city has been locating and replacing old sewer lines, and will be doing the same with aging water lines, Foster said.

Also Thursday, council members put on hold the first reading of an ordinance that would allow some limited keeping of chickens by residents inside the city limits, but with a list of conditions.

It will require specifically designed henhouses and other items.

“It’s very restricted,” Foster said of the measure.

Foster also told the council that the city’s new automated garbage truck is now expected to be delivered in December, and that the new special trash cans that must be used with the truck have already been delivered to the city.

“The cans are in, and we will be delivering them [to customers]probably in October,” Foster said.

Trash pickup customers will be given a list of instructions for use of the special cans, which will be picked up and dumped into the truck robotically. Because there will be only a driver on the truck, all refuse must be in the special can, and nothing on the outside of the cans will be picked up, Foster said.

The council also delayed approval of a five-year city manager contract renewal for Foster, at his request. Foster said the contract was still being prepared, with a salary increase, and that he would bring it back to the council for approval at its September meeting, even though his current contract expires Sept. 1.

He said he would continue to serve at his present salary until the new contract is approved. Councilman and Vice Mayor Juston Job wanted to give the contract preliminary approval anyway, saying, “With all the work you’ve put in, I think you deserve every penny of [the proposed raise].”

Kerry Templin, who is running for mayor against incumbent Timothy Sharp in the Nov. 8 city election, spoke up from the gallery area to say he would like to see the proposed contract for Foster before it’s approved. Templin does not hold any position in the city’s government now.

In other business last Thursday night, the City Council approved:

• A continuing contract with the East Tennessee Development District for planning services, at $6,750 per year.

• A continuing contract with Cannon & Cannon Engineers for “general engineering services.”

• A contract of $5,000 for new software and computer services for the utility department for reporting of leaks.