UPDATE: TN American Water, Walden's utility offering to buy Signal Mtn water system
It's a bid between nearby Walden's Ridge Utility District, and Tennessee American Water, which is based in New Jersey.
UPDATE: Channel 3 is learning more details about the two companies that are vying to be the sole provider for Signal Mountain's water system.
Tennessee American Water and Walden's Ridge Utility District are in the running. Both companies are offering to buy the system for more than $3 million, but we wanted to know how the two stack up against each other?
For years residents on Signal Mountain have been divided when it comes to their water provider. About 3,500 residents are TAW customers, while WRUD has 800.
WRUD gets water from an aquifer through Hixson Utility District, using chlorine, fluoride, zinc and orthophosphate to purify it.
"Hixson has a great aquafir they said they can sell us 5,000,000 gallons of water a day. They’re excited about the fact that Signal Mountain might come on board. Spring water is a lot cleaner a lot less build up on pipes, hot water heater’s and different items in the home," said WRUD General Manger, Ron West.
TAW pumps water from the Tennessee River. The water purified with chlorine, fluoride, and corrosion inhibitor. The company tests the water itself.
"The Tennessee River is a very abundant source and it actually has a very good natural pH so we don’t have to do a whole lot to it. In our 130 years of existence here in Chattanooga we’ve never had a water quality violation which is something that a lot of water utilities cannot say," said TAW External Affairs Manager, Daphne Kirksey.
As far as rates, both companies promise not to raise rates for more than five years. Rates with WRUD haven't increased since 2015.
"That’s the good part about public utilities is that we don’t have rates stockholders and we don’t have quotas we have to meet," said West.
TAW rates include a capital investment surcharge.
"We don’t set out to make these huge increases that are going to be a shock so we would minimize it, and we would want to transition it in. it’s just all depending on what the needs are in the system at that time," said Kirksey.
While some residents may favor one company over the other, it's up to the town council to choose.
"It’s not that we are power-hungry; we just think we have a better product. We can sell it at a more reasonable cost and in the long run it will be better for the entire mountain," said West.
"We know that our customers count on us to provide a product that is going to be safe and clean and that something that we take great responsibility for," said Kirksey.
PREVIOUS STORY: Signal Mountain's water system is up for sale and residents have mixed feelings about which company is fit for the job.
It's a bid between nearby Walden's Ridge Utility District, and Tennessee American Water, which is based in New Jersey. Right now Signal Mountain owns and manages its water system, but it buys water from TAW. The town council can choose to keep it the way it is or to sell to one of two companies.
Claire Griesinger has been a TAW customer since she moved to Signal Mountain 18 years ago. She says she has no complaints, but is urging the town to switch to WRUD.
"To me it's a no-brainer I want the clear water," said Griesinger. "I think that they're going to be quite more interested in the Signal Mountain customers that are sitting right here next to them than Tennessee American Water or American Water; their parent company up in New Jersey."
WRUD is offering to buy the system for $3.6 million with $2.6 million in improvements, which would switch the water supply from TAW to WRUD's Hixson facility. TAW has offered to buy the system for $3.4 million with $1.25 million planned for improvements. Both companies are proposing five years with rate hikes. But Griesinger isn't convinced that will be the case with TAW.
"With their new rate mechanism they will add capital improvement riders to everyone's bill and every single year they will go up up up."
TAW gathers water from the Tennessee River, which requires chemical cleaning. WRUD gets water from an aquifer, which Griesinger says doesn't require as many chemicals. Griesinger created water samples to show the difference.
"You can hold up a bottle of each one of them and see how clear the water is from Walden's Ridge Utility District."
It's not clear what the town council members will decide, but Griesinger says their decision will impact everyone.
"372 families on Signal Mountain get their water from Walden's Ridge already and the rest of us are with Tennessee American," said Griesinger. "This is I think a huge issue. It's going to be a issue that is going to effect everybody. Basically I consider this will be the legacy of this council."
Channel 3 reached out to TAW.
“Our water quality record speaks for itself,” said Tennessee American Water President Val Armstrong said. “We know that our customers rely on us to provide water that is safe and clean. Water is essential to life and this is a responsibility we do not take lightly.”
Tennessee american water has provided water to the residents of signal mountain for 93 years.
“Our commitment to the town of Signal Mountain is to provide outstanding customer service, to continue delivering essential and quality water, to invest in the community including as a new taxpayer and to develop a strategic approach to upgrade the water system,” said Ms. Armstrong.
She said there are significant advantages for the town to approve Tennessee American Water’s proposal.
“With Tennessee American Water as an even more engaged partner, the town will free up funds designated for water infrastructure and reinvest them in other community priorities,” Ms. Armstrong said. “the town will also gain a new taxpayer that will provide even more support for community-based initiatives. Tennessee American Water draws on decades of exceptional service in its Chattanooga water operations with an award-winning water treatment facility, experienced water professionals and a strategic approach to invest in infrastructure improvements through the use of new technologies,” Ms. Armstrong said.
Channel 3 could not get in contact with WRUD during the time of this story, because of office hours.
Residents can question both water companies starting next week. The first public meeting is scheduled for March 22 at 6:30 in the municipal gym.