Investigation of City of Clinton Water and Sewer Department to take over the Dennard Water Association was a surprising development at the City of Clinton’s City Council meeting Tuesday, July 25.

The passage of an ordinance to place a quarter cent fire tax on the November ballot, developed via a council work group the previous week, as expected, took place at the meeting as well.

The Dennard Water Association was an apparent surprise to most council members when it was brought up by Clinton Water and Sewer head Dickie Hink during his regular presentation. Hink outlined having just left a meeting with Dennard Water representatives, that that service was going out of business. It had already accepted a bid from another water system to take over its operations, Hink told the council.

Hink was careful, throughout his presentation, to not name the organization which had bid on Dennard. Asked later, Hink said the issue was not what other entities were bidding, but the impact the loss of Dennard Water would have on Clinton Water and Sewer operations.

Hink made several points to the council in this regard: The loss of Dennard Water as a customer would mandate Clinton Water re-engineering its line structure with Dennard’s loss leading to 1.5 million gallons less water being provided, against the roughly $5,500 brought in by the Dennard service. The loss of that service, however, would impact the need for water lines from Clinton to Dennard, which are currently slated to be upgraded during planned Highway Department expansion on Highway 65 north of Clinton. With the loss of Dennard re-engineering would require re-calculations of such things as slope, an expensive proposition which could fall to the city to fund, unlike the current environment where Highway Department is upgrading the lines at its expense as part of the highway expansion.

The slope between Dennard and Clinton has four water tanks in line, which would be a factor in reengineering, Hink said.

“A big push [to review the matter] is coming from the highway department,” Hink told the council.

Hink extended that the loss of Dennard would likely impact the water lease held by Clinton on Greers Ferry Lake. Clinton’s multi-acre allotment would be rolled back by the Corp of Engineers and could impact future growth prospects for the community.

Dennard Water, Hink said, currently owes $997,000 in bond payment with roughly 350 customers. The bonds are actually across three bonds with USDA, Hink said. Because Clinton is a municipality it should be able to renegotiate the bonds into a single payment with a slightly lower interest rate - an advantage Clinton would have versus a non-municipal water system, he told the council.

In the current environment of the bond payment against revenues from customers, Dennard Water Association “is a break-even system,” Hink said.

Several council members pointed out that Dennard Water had approached Clinton about taking it over several times, the first roughly 15 years ago. Any take-over would be “probably a six-month process,” Hink said.

The council voted unanimously for Hink to begin investigation into the City of Clinton Water and Sewer taking over Dennard Water Association.

“We’ve almost got to take them,” Councilman Sam Ward said as the resolution passed.

The ordinance to place a fire-tax on the November ballot passed with little discussion by the council, a likely reflection of it having been hashed out in an earlier work session. Fire Chief D.L. Webb, however, did reiterate the case to the council that the tax was not for specific equipment as much as an opportunity for the department to be able to grow to meet changing needs, citing a fire station on the south side of town as part of the future plans, as well as putting infrastructure in place to lower the city’s fire-code ISO rating, in turn lowering fire insurance costs.

In other council matters:

At the request of Clinton Police Chief John Willoughby, $1,500 was moved from overtime to part-time employee budget line-items, as the department is currently using more part-time officers.

Animal Control head Lori Treat, whose SNYP organization took over the county animal shelter July 1, listed improvements made, including painting and a seating area, and the ongoing need for volunteers to help at the shelter.