It’s easy for the average person to think that water company business is mundane and boring and thus ignore an election for a water company board member. But water is the most essential element of life and making sure it gets delivered to your home or business clean, safe and consistently is nothing to sneeze at.
Catoosa Utility District Authority (CUDA) is the water provider for much of Catoosa County. While CUDA does not have sewer services, it contracts with the city of Ringgold to provide meter readings for Ringgold sewer services. Fort Oglethorpe operates its own water and sewer company in collaboration with Tennessee American Water Company.
“We’re lucky to have Yates Spring as our main source of water,” says CUDA office manager Rosa Gordy. “It’s very pure and we only add what is absolutely required by the state – chlorine and fluoride.”
Gordy says CUDA also has two backup sources of water for times the Spring may run low or dry or in case of a disaster, like an earthquake, that might disrupt the water supply. CUDA has agreements with Tennessee American Water Company and Eastside Utility District and has lines feeding from their water supplies.
A five-member board oversees the decisions and functioning of CUDA. Members are elected by CUDA customers and serve six-year terms. The board meets twice a month — the second and fourth Tuesdays at 8:30 a.m. at the CUDA offices on Old Mill Road.
Gordy says the board makes serious decisions about the governance of the water company, safety issues, equipment, where to install new lines, what sort of materials to use, contracts with government entities and other businesses, as well as many other things.
CUDA board members are paid $450 a month. The chair of the board is paid $550.
This year, on Oct. 1, four people are running for a seat on the board. Here are the candidates:
John Crawford (incumbent, vice-chair of the board)
Crawford is a chiropractor who owns Crawford Chiropractic on Cloud Springs Road near Costco. He has served on the CUDA board for six years. He’s been married for 35 years, has two grown children and has been singing in a gospel quartet called Bondservants since 1994.
Crawford says he attended CUDA board meetings for three months before running for the board the first time. “I wanted to learn about what the board does and see how they operate.” He says he’s pleased with how the current board works together and feels many changes that benefit CUDA customers have been made.
One big change, says Crawford, was the decision the board approved to install a 24-inch pipeline from Eastside Utility District of Chattanooga to CUDA. “Unlike many other water companies,” says Crawford, “we have backup sources of water in case something goes wrong with Yates Spring, our primary source. Also, there are times we need a little more water, especially in the summer.”
Crawford says other improvements the board has made during his tenure include getting the entire water system on GIS (Geographic Information System) so that every line and valve can be quickly found. He says the board also approved the installation of security cameras at all facilities and at other critical locations, and approved a proposal to switch to a new kind of pipe with a 70-year lifespan, instead of the commonly-used PVC, which, Crawford says, has a tendency to rupture after a while.
“I love CUDA and what it does for the community,” says Crawford. “We have close to the lowest water rates in the state. Our water is safe and clean. We work with our customers when they have a problem. We’re working on switching from having an office manager and a maintenance manager to having one manager over everything in order to bring more unity to the company. I think everyone agrees that CUDA is a good place to work.”
Crawford says he wants to continue to improve things like agreements with the cities and keeping water safe and affordable for customers. “Where growth needs to happen is in the county,” he says. “That’s where there’s space for it and a critical element of growth is water supply – how clean, protected and consistent it is, whether there’s a plan in place in case of disruption of the main source, how much it costs.”
Crawford says his science background, experience with CUDA, commitment to improvement and customer service and good relationship with the CUDA board situate him to continue to serve the community well on the CUDA board.
Fowler worked for 15 years as a manager at a Firestone store and at a Penske store. From there he went to work for Catoosa County for 22 years, first in public works in landscaping and roads and then in maintenance at the Jack Mattox Recreation Complex. He says he is now semi-retired and driving a school bus, which is something he enjoys doing because he loves children. He has been married for 42 years and has two grown children and four grandchildren. In his spare time, Fowler enjoys riding motorcycles.
“I’ve lived in this community for 43 years,” says Fowler. “The community has been good to me and now I’d like to do some things I couldn’t do before I retired. While I like the way things are going at CUDA, there are things I’d like to see happen for safety. I’d also like to see more equipment updated and I’d like to see seniors get a discount on their water.”
Fowler says he has attended two CUDA board meetings in the past. He says he knows a lot of people who work at CUDA because he interacted with them when he was working for the county, especially when he worked at Jack Mattox.
Fowler says he would oppose any raises for commissioners. “I think what they’re paid is enough. The job should be a service to the community and not just for the pay.”
Grant is the mother of eight grown children and owns a cleaning company focused on the upkeep of Peavine Baptist Church. She’s been deeply involved in the community through her children’s activities and says all of her children, four of whom have children of their own, still live in the area.
“Since my children are all grown,” says Grant, “I thought it would be a good time to get involved in more community issues. I was excited when I thought about running for the CUDA board. My husband and I have voted for board members during every election since we’ve lived here.”
Grant says she has never attended a CUDA board meeting but is ready to do a lot of reading to prepare herself to serve. “I’ve read over CUDA’s website. I work well with people and feel I could work well with other board members in a level-headed way. Two things I’d like to focus on are safety and prices. I love Catoosa County and would like the chance to serve.”
Perkins has owned Diesel Plus at the corner of Pine Grove Road and Battlefield Parkway for 18 years and employs 17 people. He and his wife have been married for 29 years and have one grown son. Perkins (with Chuck Miller) has had a radio program — “The Car Clinic” — for 10 years on Talk 102.3, during which he, as “Dr. Diesel,” and Miller, as “Professor Overdrive,” field questions from callers about car problems and try to help them find solutions.
Perkins says he has never attended a CUDA board meeting but was looking for a place where he could get in and give back to the community he says has been good to him.
“I’ve been very blessed. I’ve been involved with the rec association. I have a lot of business experience. I would like to serve on the CUDA board as a way to improve my community and keep it a good place to live for everyone and for my future grandchildren.”