Public Works director says water loss cut in half during 11 months

BY BILL SHORT

Oakland Public Works Director Harvey Ellis said recently that the town has cut its water loss in half during the previous 11 months.
At the July 16 meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, Ellis reported that the loss had decreased from 28 to 14 percent during that period.

“I’d say that’s a very low number,” he noted, “and I’m proud of that. The guys have worked hard to tighten that number up, and we’ve seen a dramatic change in that.”

Citing Ellis’ written report to the board, Alderman Billy Ray Morris expressed concern that the 14 percent amounts to 43,301,990 gallons of water.

“It’s actually good,” Ellis replied. “I would urge you to find a water system with a lower number.”

In response to a question by Morris, the Public Works director also said that is “acceptable” within the “state standards.”
When Alderman Kelly Rector asked about the percentage of water loss at Oakland Elementary and West Junior High schools, Mayor Chris Goodman said his administration is “tracking” that.

“As soon as we get a good baseline,” he noted, “we will be billing out the lost revenue on those two.”

Morris asked when The University of Tennessee’s Municipal Technical Advisory Service is scheduled to conduct a water-rate study for Oakland. Goodman said his administration has applied for a “revolving loan” that will be used to install the “smart meters.”

“Part of that process will be a water study,” he noted. “So, I hate to go out and spend $5,000 if the state’s going to come in and do it for us.”

The mayor said he is awaiting an “update” on the status of that loan application, and he hopes to have more information before the board’s Aug. 20 meeting.

“If it’s not going to happen over the next three to five months,” he said, “we will go ahead and engage MTAS to come in and do that study.”

Morris asked whether the town is “still losing money” because of unaccounted-for water. Goodman said he will not know that until the accounting firm “comes in” and, “We get the books caught up.”

“But I know that there’s been a significant change,” he noted. “I mean, we’ve cut that loss in half.”

Ellis recalled that, in 2011, he asked MTAS to conduct a rate study for Oakland. At that time, it recommended an increase in the town’s water and sewer rates.

“I don’t remember the exact numbers right now,” he said, “but I have that on file.”

Because the rates have not been raised in more than 15 years, Ellis said there is “no doubt” that an increase is needed.
He also said the board was talking about two separate issues: (1) water loss and (2) revenue loss. But he noted that they are “tied together.”

In response to another question by Morris, the Public Works director acknowledged that all the residents are “affected” when the town is “losing this much water.”