Oak Ridge North City Council met for a regular meeting Feb. 22 to discuss several infrastructure issues as well as the city's response to last week's winter storm and related local power and water issues.

City Manager Heather Neeley provided council with an overview of the city's response during the week of Feb. 14. Many residents served by CenterPoint Energy and Entergy lost power for a period of time last week, and the city dealt with a water pressure issue related to burst coolant hose connected to a water plant generator, although no water quality issues were detected, and a boil-water notice was not issued in the city.

"Overall, the city fared really well. We didn’t have much damage," Neeley said. "The police building did have a pipe burst, a water leak, and then, the generator hose, but otherwise, the city’s infrastructure fared well. Of course, we had residents north of Robinson [Road] that, I think, were without power the longest; the Entergy residents; and then, the Centerpoint residents, I believe, for the most part, only lost power for about a day, if I remember correctly."

Neeley said the city's emergency response plan will be evaluated by officials, and a possible upgrade could include a new automated text and call system to alert residents during events when normal communications may be disrupted.

"This little freeze—we were aware of it, but I don't think anybody realized exactly how long we were going to be out of touch with things. So we’ll definitely look at that with hurricane season coming up—figuring out more ways we can get the messages out during emergencies," she said.

Following further discussion of the city's response to last week's weather event, including changes to local trash and recycling pickup schedules and fees, council members also heard updates on two city water projects as well as on the preparation of a new emergency response plan for water and sewer systems as required by the America's Water Infrastructure Act of 2018. Council unanimously approved a contract of up to $8,500 to the Jones and Carter firm for preparation of that mandated plan, which Public Works Director Joe Sherwin said could also serve as a base for a more comprehensive city disaster plan.

"I think this may be a good time to bring in the disaster plan overall and [work] this in as either a subset or some sort of subchapter," he said. "This will cover the water and sewer emergency response plan, which could then lead us and give us a footprint and something to work off for the rest of the city as well.”

Council also unanimously approved an $8,395 addition for the city's Robinson Road realignment project. Sherwin said the additional funding will cover coordination and planning work between consultants RPS Group and the Union Pacific Railroad needed to finalize the project's scope near the railroad tracks.

“This would take us through the advertising and bidding process as well as construction process. That’s our anticipation—that any further Union Pacific Railroad questions, reviews and site visits would be covered under this amount," he said.

Finally, council voted to cancel the city's May election after no challengers filed for candidacy to oppose incumbent Council Members Clint McClaren, Dawn Candy and Frances Planchard. All three incumbents filed for re-election, and all three will retain their seats on council.