Cleveland gets $10.8 million loan to fund more sewer improvements

Ongoing sewer improvements in Cleveland, Tennessee, got a $10.8 million boost this week from a state loan.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner David Salyers announced the loan this past week. It comes from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund Loan Program and is aimed at infiltration and inflow corrections within Cleveland’s sewer collection system, officials said.

The loan has a 20-year term at 0.73% interest. Greg Clark, Cleveland Utilities’ manager of wastewater collections, said that rate was less than half the rate the city got on another $10 million program loan in 2018.

“Typically what we’ve done is, we get a $10 million loan and inside of that we’ll typically perform three rehabilitation projects with that money,” Clark said Thursday. “Each year we’ll bid a contract somewhere in the vicinity of $3 million to $3.5 million, just depending on how the work plays out until we utilize all those funds.”

The loan will fund work along South Ocoee Street and in the Dalton Pike area of South Cleveland, along with additional improvements near Bowman Hills off of North Ocoee Street, Clark said. Some streets north of the Bowman Hills area also will see some improvements, he said.

Specific loan-funded work in those areas includes “cured-in-place” lining to rehabilitate existing main sewer lines and rehabilitation of lateral lines to customers and maintenance holes throughout the project area, Clark said.

Clark said a little money left from a 2018 loan will be combined with the new loan to help keep overlapping projects going. Ongoing evaluation and smoke testing of the sewer system helps identify areas of greatest need and make the most efficient use of the loan funds, he said.

“These loans from the State Revolving Fund Loan Program address important infrastructure needs and demonstrate our commitment to assisting communities throughout our state,” Gov. Lee said in a statement on the loan.

“These loans should have a big impact,” Salyers said.

Loans from the state’s program have provided millions for sewer projects in Cleveland over the years, Clark said.

More recently, the city was given a $10 million loan in March 2018 for similar sewer problems and another $1.3 million loan for related infrastructure work three months later. The interest rate at that time was 1.58% and 1.56%, respectively, according to previous Times Free Press reports. The $1.3 million loan was increased in 2019 by $379,500 for a collection system expansion to include the installation of about 7,750 linear feet of sewer lines to replace septic tanks.

Clark said projects are prioritized and an effort is made to take on several projects in one area at the same time, when possible, for better efficiency and pricing.

Sometimes other activities speed work.

Clark said the Tennessee Department of Transportation is planning to repave portions of South Ocoee Street and Dalton Pike, so Cleveland officials want to get scheduled work there done ahead of TDOT’s work so the new pavement isn’t marred immediately.

Clark said the loan program has been a boon for Cleveland’s sewer system, compared with funding through municipal bonds, and that helps keep rate increases to a minimum.

Contact Ben Benton at [email protected] or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton or at

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