The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Progress 2012

February 29, 2012

City, county utilities look toward ambitious year

(Continued)

Athens Gas Department

Athens Mayor Ronnie Marks speaks highly of all city departments and department heads, but he loves to brag on the city’s gas department.

“They really do a great job down there,” he said.

Not only is the department consistently profitable, but also its training facility — Leak City — brings hundreds of visitors into the city from all over the state and the southeast. Department manager Steve Carter said this year would be no different, as training sessions will be lined up throughout the spring and summer.

Like Scroggins, Carter said his department is about 90 percent recovered from the April 27 storms, adding that some systems had to be reconstructed.

The department is also working with officials to help transition to green technology through using compressed natural gas in vehicles. Though still in preliminary stages, Carter said the city is considering purchasing a CNG-powered garbage truck. He’s also had conversations with Scroggins about the possibility of using CNG-powered meter-reading trucks.

“Manufacturers are coming out with CNG engines, and as the country moves to green energy, you’ll see other (cities) moving that way,” he said.

The gas department will also play a major role in the development of the $500 million Carpenter Technology Corporation facility. As part of Athens’ incentives package, the city agreed to supply gas pipelines and manpower for an estimated value of $375,000.

Athens Sewer Department

The city’s sewer department is staying busy these days, but water services manager John Stockton doesn’t consider that a bad thing. He said the city is in good shape for future growth, whether it be residential, commercial or industrial.

“We’ve got a treatment capacity that can easily handle doubling the population of this town,” he said. “If an industry needs a million to a million and a half gallons of water, we can handle it.”

One the department’s ongoing projects is providing sewer services to about 80 homes in the Whitfield and Winslow subdivisions. The project dates back to 2009 after residents voiced health concerns related to plumbing.

Stockton said he’s now working to find an easement to install sewer lines, but added it has been difficult to find in subdivisions that were not built with sewer service in mind. He said the plan is to put work out to bid by the end of the month and hopefully have a contractor working on the project by the first of May.

City officials have estimated the cost to install sewer to be about $900,000.

Stockton said another plan on the horizon is to run a 24-inch sewer pipe out of the Canebrake pumping station up Piney Creek to U.S. 72. He estimated it would be a $2.5 million project, but said it could lead to future growth in Athens.

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