The latest updates have come in a pair of monthly reports by Cleveland Utilities division managers.
Craig Mullinax, manager of the Water Division who stays apprised of meter sets, has confirmed the local numbers keep growing. A “meter set” is a term used in the utility industry for the physical connection of new residential and commercial developments to the CU water and wastewater systems.
Mullinax deems it a reliable economic indicator because meter sets are a gauge of new construction and most economists link the construction industry to the viability of an area’s economic strength. In this case, meter sets are being watched as potential evidence of recovery from The Great Recession.
Although others would argue the point, some believe the three-year recession has not devastated the Cleveland and Bradley County community as it has most American cities. Continued economic development growth in the area — such as that provided by Whirlpool, Wacker Polysilicon North America and Amazon — is used as their proof.
In his monthly report for September, Mullinax points to the numbers. For the month, the CU Water Division recorded 37 meter sets, as compared to 12 in September 2010, and 24 in the same month two years ago.
In CU’s fiscal year, which is three months old — July, August and September — the total number of meter sets is 109, compared to 66 for the same period last year, and 81 in 2009. This breaks down to a monthly average of 36 meter sets so far this fiscal year, compared to 22 last year and 27 two years ago.
“We’re quite a bit over the last two years,” Mullinax said. “That’s a good trend.”
He said the residential meter sets include 17 single-family dwellings, three duplexes and two 4-unit housing developments.
Mullinax’s report is supported by Ken Webb, manager of CU’s Accounting Division, who said for the month of September both the Water and Wastewater divisions reported increases in “access fees,” another utility term. In this case, access fees refer to the amounts paid by contractors and developers to have their new developments hooked into CU’s existing water and sewer systems.
“In both the Water and Wastewater divisions, access fees continue to outperform both the budgeted amounts and the amounts from the same time last year,” Webb said. “I continue to believe this is an encouraging sign that economic activity in the area is progressing.”
Based on CU divisional reports over the past few months, the economic activity may be slow, but it is consistently getting better, according to the Webb and Mullinax updates.
In an unrelated development in his division, Mullinax said the ongoing Inflow & Infiltration Sewer Rehabilitation Program, which has been funded by CU at the pace of $1.25 million per year over the next decade, is progressing in its opening phase in the south Cleveland basin. To date, Littlejohn Engineering and subcontractor crews have inspected 560 manholes — the total CU system has 4,500 — and completed smoke tests on 80,000 linear feet of sanitary sewer line; this amounts to about 15 miles worth.
Also, crews have completed internal inspections of about 16,000 linear feet of sewer line using closed-circuit TV, he said.
Mullinax believes the opening phase of the I/I project will be “winding down” by the end of November.
In business conducted in a recent monthly session of the Cleveland Board of Public Utilities, members took the following actions:
n Authorized allowing the utility to enter into a “Master Agreement for Professional Services” with Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. to provide engineering, consulting and other professional services for Cleveland Utilities.
n Approved Task Order No. 1 with Jacobs Engineering Group in the amount of $77,300 for the design, bidding and construction administration of the proposed Water Storage Tank and Water Booster Station (Phase II) on Georgetown Road N.W.
n Approved a purchase order with Underwater Construction Corporation in the amount of $152,076 for the rehabilitation of the No. 1 and No. 2 traveling water screens and static bar screens located at the Cleveland Raw Water Intake on the Hiwassee River. The project will extend the life of the existing equipment by more than 10 years. The project had been budgeted for fiscal year 2012-13 at a cost of $581,000. The screens are used to filter leaves and debris from the intake system.
n Approved the extension of a banking services agreement with Bank of Cleveland for a period of one year.