By Ashley Rader
Elizabethton’s City Council heard Director of Utilities Johann Coetzee outline Thursday why the group should consider forming an independent utilities board to oversee the city’s electric, water and wastewater departments.
Coetzee said that when he was hired in 1995, he started working toward getting the city’s utilities updated. He said that in 18 years, the previous city councils and mayors had granted a total of $15 million for infrastructure improvements.
While that amount had been granted over the years, he said he had come to learn that councils do not generally grant funding for such projects until there is no other option available to them. He said that by forming an independent utilities board, the utilities could be governed with a long-term business approach that would not be influenced by local politics.
He said his main concern for improvements is the city’s sewer lines.
Coetzee said the sewer lines had not been replaced or cleaned in years, and were leaking badly. He said during a heavy rain storm, the wastewater treatment plant had to treat millions of more gallons of water that seeped in through the older pipes.