This article appeared in the Elizabethton Star on September 19th, 2011:
Photo by Brandon Hicks
A plaque has been dedicated at the First Utility District office of Stoney Creek.
Utility manager Jon Nidiffer stands beside the new plaque.
It was the late 1940s and the citizens of Stoney Creek had a great need for its community. They needed a central water source to supply the
homes. It was a time when indoor plumbing was a luxury and not every home was close to a water source. Some were lucky enough to have wells or live near streams while others had to carry water to
their homes by whatever means they had available. It was time for Stoney Creek to have a change for its people.
J.L. Moreland, Dewey Fletcher, along with Roy Peters, were joined together with their community to start a utility for the Stoney Creek community. Moreland made the long trek to Nashville to obtain $500,000 to start the utility district since no one local would finance this venture. Judge W.C. O’Brien of the Carter County Court signed a decree, creating the district on Sept. 14, 1950.
The construction started. Land was obtained for the spring house and the storage tank. The land for the tank was purchased from the Richardson family, while the springs were purchased from Will Campbell. The springs were known as the Nidiffer springs and were previously owned by Levi Nidiffer. The building of the utility was not without its problems caused by varying factors. Bush Builders from Nashville was the first contractor used to construct the new water line. They were later sued for using gas line instead of water line, causing rust in the water. There were delays, but the work persisted to achieve the goal to supply the community with water.
Finally, on Sept. 7, 1951, the first valve was turned by Judge Raymond Campbell and water filled the pipeline and began to flow down Stoney Creek. Houses that once had to get barrels to carry water, now had to do nothing more than turn on a faucet. It supplied over 500 homes, extending from the Buladeen area to Lynn Valley and stopping at the city limits. It was expressed by city officials that this would bring growth to the community and bring Stoney Creek into the future.
Being incorporated as a business, the district had to have a name, operators, commissioners and an office. It became known as the First Utility Water District. Herman Deal was the first operator and Beryl Fletcher was the next operator. J.L. Moreland had the first office in his store and he along with Dewey Fletcher and Roy Peters were the first commissioners.
These men were the founders and leaders of a community that should be thankful that they had the vision to seek a way to give its people a better future.
Times have changed since the start of the First Utility and so have state regulations that govern operations. The utility now has several storage tanks, pump houses and its own central office. It has gone from 500 customers to more than 3,200. The utility is still under the authority of three elected commissioners, an operations manager and support staff but must ultimately comply with the state. The state requires monitoring of the filtration systems, water quality, random water samples and yearly audits. This is to ensure the safety of public water and that the utility is operating within the guidelines set by the state.
The utility has maintained operations within normal limits until 2007. In 2007, the utility began to operate with a financial loss. This also occurred in the years 2008 and 2009. This was a high priority for the commissioners and the state to recover the loss and keep the utility operating. Measures began to achieve the goal of getting the utility back on track and show a profit.
In 2010, the First Utility completed the year with a financial gain. It also received a score of 97 on its sanitary survey, which had been considerably lower in the past. Several updates have also been installed to improve the utility.
The utility is currently having to produce approximately 4 million gallons less water per month than one year ago. This is due to a state of the art telemetry system, which is a system that controls storage tanks and pumps through satellites. This has reduced water loss through the constant monitoring of the system.
The utility has also updated the disinfectant system to make it safer for the community and the employees. Emergency generator hookups have been installed at the wells, filter plant and the Blue Springs pump house to provide more than 70 percent of the customers with water in the event of extended power outages.
With the improvements, the utility was able to receive an A credit rating from Standard & Poors. The First Utility was able to borrow funds for 25 years at a true interest cost of approximately 4.58 percent. This transaction successfully reduced interest cost on the refunded obligations by more than $353,000. With the utility now operating at a profit and having lowered interest rates, it has had the ability to purchase an up-to-date radio read meter system which has allowed the lowering of operating costs even more.
This year, the utility hired Peakflow PLLC to evaluate the ground water source for the First Utility District. Their findings show that water production could be increased by several hundred gallons per minute. The original spring may also be redeveloped to provide additional water. According to these findings, the First Utility should be able to provide water for its customers for years to come.
The First Utility District started out with humble beginnings for its community. It met the needs of its citizens then and continues to do so to this day. It has been through many ups and downs as a business. It has seen commissioners come and go through the years. It has also seen a change of operators, employees and ideas to better serve the community. The one constant that has been, is that it is here for the people of Stoney Creek and is stronger now than ever to meet their needs.