Cumberland Mayor Carl Hatfield said the city's council has approved a resolution to employ an outside engineering firm to conduct a study that will help determine a “possible alternative” to water and sewage operations in the Tri-Cities.
The three cities each have a water and sewer plant, Hatfield said, meaning that each are responsible for constant repairs and upgrades. A merger could reduce costs for the cities and provide better service at a cheaper rate for customers, he said.
“In my opinion, it's the best route to go” rather than having three water and sewage plants, Hatfield said. He said each city has to have “at least” two certified inspectors for the water and sewage plants, when only two overall would be needed with a merger.
Hatfield said the Cumberland Valley Area Development District will appoint the engineering firm “to keep it impartial” and the firm will in turn make recommendations on details of the possible merger, including what size of water tank will be needed for the three cities.
“They're looking into it at this point and will monitor it,” he said.
Funding for the study is estimated to cost approximately $100,000 - to be taken from a $1.2 million grant issued in 2001 by the Division of Water for the renovation and upgrade of Cumberland's water plant. Hatfield said inquiring about a possible merger of the water and sewage plants, in an effort to provide better service at a lower cost, was a “stipulation” to the grant.
He emphasized that the merger is only a suggestion at this point.
“We want to do it,” he said, adding that each of the cities' officials will need to meet after recommendations on the possible merger have been made.
“We will have to get together and come up with some kind of a decision,” he said. If a decision cannot be reached, he said, the money appropriated for the project “will revert back to Cumberland to refurbish Cumberland's water plant.”
Approximately 4,110 in the Tri-Cities would be served by the possible merger. A spokesperson or staff member of the Cumberland Valley Area Development District could not be reached for comment.