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Citizen challenges city to fight for water updates

By Meg Dickens
Staff Writer

Water issues are a constant feature at Mountain City Council meetings. Residents bring scores of complaints to the city every year asking for help. Reports show that the water department works hard but it needs more resources and employees. Now a member of the community is offering to help the city help its citizens by reaching out for state support.

“I understand we have tanks in town that were built in 1929 and lines to match that type of thing,” explained Johnson County resident Randy Dandurand. “It sounds to me like our water system really needs a major boost from the state of Tennessee. I’d like to challenge the aldermen and you, Mr. Mayor, to lead that effort, and I’d be happy to help.”

Randy Dandurand approached the City Council about water issues with information he requested from Water Collection and Distribution Superintendent Chris Hook, focusing on the Outback subdivision, affecting all of Hemlock Street. Since late October, Dandurand has experienced water issues. Twice for service saddle gasket failures, twice for main line breaks, and once for a main line repair.

“My wife and I have started putting water aside to ensure we can brush our teeth in the morning,” he said.

Whenever the water does return, Dandurand reports filters are filled with sediment. Dandurand compared the issues to the contaminated water problems in Flint, Michigan, and hoped the local system did not reach that state. He noted that equipment nearly 100 years old is bound to deteriorate.

“I’m not here to criticize,” Dandurand explained. “I’m not here to talk about anybody in a harsh way, but I am here to volunteer my services. If we need to petition the state, if we need to contact politicians in the state, I would certainly be more than happy to lead that effort.”

Dandurand praised Hook for his responses in the past, saying he does a “fabulous job” and “works his butt off to give us the best he can.” The main problem, according to Hook, is a lack of “warm bodies in the ditch” caused by retention issues. Hook just filled two positions in the department that were recently filled and vacated.

Mountain City also needs the funding to update these systems. The city is currently applying for a 2021 GDB (Government Development Bank) grant for the wastewater collection system rehabilitation of up to $630,000 with a local match of up to $47,419. Other grants and state or federal government subsidies may be available. Dandurand mentioned several government officials he knows that would most likely help and encouraged local politicians to speak out.

In the past, the city discussed implementing GIS (geographic information system) mapping but has yet to do so. This type of mapping allows officials to pinpoint utility issues, so they can fix said issues faster and more efficiently. According to Dandurand, who has a son who does this for a living, it saves money in the long run.

As of the time of this article, there is no indication on whether the city plans to take Dandurand up on his offer. For more information on the Mountain City Council or to listen to previous meeting recordings, visit mountaincitytn.org.