By Louie Graves
On his first day in office nearly eight years ago, Nashville Mayor Billy Ray Jones says that the city was possibly two weeks away from a water supply emergency, and was facing the threat of heavy fines because of its antiquated wastewater treatment facility.
“We were looking at one fine after another,” he says of the latter threat.
The former threat – water shortage – was because of the age and reliability of the city’s pumps at the Little Missouri River intake site near Murfreesboro.
By working steadily on the town’s problems, progress has been made, he told members of the Nashville Rotary Club last Wednesday, Dec. 27.
That progress includes improvements at the Little Missouri River water intake. Greater, and more reliable, pumping ability enables the city to keep its upper reservoir, Lake Louis Graves, in reserve, and also be capable of significantly increasing its water treatment and distribution.
And the city’s state-of-the-art $6 million wastewater treatment facility has gotten Nashville off the “bad boy” list of environmental agencies.
Mayor Jones told his fellow Rotarians that the city’s water and sewer infrastructure was in good shape for possibly another 30 years.
There has been a steady, if unspectacular, rise in sales tax income which is a good sign, he said, and he pointed to thriving local institutions and industries — Husqvarna, Howard Memorial Hospital, etc. – which are doing well and making the community stronger.
With the improvements of water and sewer, the city is able to focus on other infrastructure challenges, he said.
“We need people,” he said, talking about manpower shortages at local industries. “Our industries are begging for people. That’s our next big push.”
He said that local starting pay scales are competitive with larger cities, although that was not the case six to eight years ago.
During a short question-and-answer session at the end of his talk, Howard Memorial Hospital administrator Debra Wright echoed the mayor’s comments about manpower shortage.
Before his speech to the club, the mayor told the newspaper that 2018 would see the city renew its focus on unused, unsightly and unsanitary structures.
That includes tracking down absentee landlords and placing liens on properties if the city has to do cleanup.