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Storm Water engineer House set to retire in late July

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During his seven years, House and his crew of two have worked hard to keep the streams and waterways of Wilson County free of pollutants as a result of storm water runoff. House inspects new construction across the county to see how it will affect storm water runoff and how it could possibly contaminate natural waterways. House said runoff can be negatively affected by development, creating more “impervious surfaces” that prevent precipitation from naturally soaking into the soil.

“Silt is the number one pollutant of creeks and water here,” House said.

He explained that runoff collects pollutants such as bacteria, chemicals, grease, oil, metals and more that can be carried into local water sources. They work tirelessly to keep mud and silt that may be contaminated out of local creeks with barriers and by preventing development from negatively affecting runoff.

Over the past several years, House said that requirements from the State and Federal governments have created more challenges as well as more paperwork to comply with while inspecting construction and waterways.

One issue that House works to prevent is flooding caused by storm water runoff, an issue that has become one of the largest in Wilson County since the floods on May 1-2, 2010.

He said that construction and impervious surfaces can increase the risks of flooding as well as build-up of materials in natural water sources. The storm water division has worked since 2004 to keep flooding around the county to a minimum if possible.

Before being hired as Engineer and Storm Water Director, House had much experience with how construction affected runoff when he worked for the Tennessee Department of Transportation for 32 years.

“I kind of ran the whole gamut of things. I started as an entry-level position when I was in school, graduated from college and in the last few years was one of the top managers in my office,” he said.

House earned a degree in Civil Engineering and worked with quality control while at TDOT. In that position, he earned experience with road construction and bridges to see how those impervious surfaces affected storm water runoff. He said those surfaces are especially prone to carry hazardous materials from the cars and trucks that use them each day.

Following his years at TDOT, House operated a small land surveying company in Smith County before seeing the job opening for the Wilson Storm Water Director.

“I went down and applied and was lucky enough to get the job,” he recalled.

In seeing the department grow from day one, House indicated that increases in government standards and requirements have not only helped the department grow, but also made the job more complicated.

“It’s tough to cross all the t’s and dot the i’s for what all the governments are asking for,” House said.

House said that one scenario could be he stays long enough to get his successor acclimated to the job and how the department operates. However, he pointed out he has to be off the county’s payroll before the new Director is added, saying, “I’ll just have to see what the mayor decides.”

After retiring at the end of this month, House said he’s going to be spending more time with his family and more time fishing on the local water sources he worked to keep clean for seven years.

“I’m going to do some of those things that I’ve been putting off,” he said.

He also said that he plans to work on his farm and do more volunteer work around the county after retiring.

House indicated county officials asked him to stay until the end of July so the Urban Type Facilities Board could receive applications for the position and choose his successor.

The county received eight sealed applications for the job, which the board will open and review the candidates’ qualifications and conduct interviews for their meeting on Friday, July 8.

The Urban Type Facilities Board and county Road Commission both consist of the same members with Mayor Randall Hutto as chairman. The members, District 6 Commissioner Kenny Reich, District 18 Commissioner Adam Bannach, District 12 Commissioner Billy Rowland and District 14 Commissioner Jeff Joines, are also expected to consider five applicants for the position of Road Superintendent on Friday.

Unlike the Engineer and Storm Water Director, which is a direct hire with an indefinite term, the Road Superintendent is an appointed position that has a four-year term. Current Superintendent Steve Armistead indicated he had also applied for another four-year term.

Staff Writer Patrick Hall may be contacted at phall@wilsonpost.com.

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