City and towns plan to solve sewer issues
By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on May 30, 2004 9:18 AM
Officials from Goldsboro, Fremont, Eureka and Walnut Creek will likely be talking soon about a topic most people would rather avoid -- sewage.
Goldsboro has agreed to handle the waste from the three towns, but there are still some issues to be resolved between the four municipalities.
For one, Goldsboro is facing a $1 million shortfall in its water and sewer fund and will start trying to collect from Fremont, which is delinquent on its $400,000 sewer bill, say city officials.
Fremont, which has problems with stormwater getting into its sewer system, will be trying to get more capacity from the Goldsboro sewer plant.
Walnut Creek is also planning to hook on to the city sewer system. The town is not delinquent on any payments to the city, but it is asking for an extension on a $339,000 payment that is scheduled at the end of June.
Meanwhile, Eureka is trying to figure out why Fremont is charging it three times more than its meters show.
The discussion seemed to come to a head last week when it was reported that Goldsboro was short almost $1 million in its utility fund.
Part of the deficit is due to people using less water last year.
About $400,000 is owed by Fremont, said City Manager Richard Slozak.
The city also expects to eventually receive $339,000 from Walnut Creek.
According to a contract between Walnut Creek and Goldsboro, the village is scheduled to pay the money by the end of June. The payment is for sewer capacity. The village hasn't yet hooked on to Goldsboro's system.
Walnut Creek expected to begin constructing a sewer line to Goldsboro's plant by the end of next month. But the state has been slow in approving various phases of the project, and the project won't be bid until late June, said Walnut Creek Mayor Ken Ritt.
When the village realized the project was behind schedule, then-Walnut Creek Councilman Jack Best sent a letter to Goldsboro requesting an extension on the $339,000 payment until January.
The letter was sent to the city manager's office in April, Ritt said.
Goldsboro's City Council was informed of the request Monday, at the same time it learned of the city's utility fund deficit.
The City Council wasn't sure why the village wanted an extension, so it recommended that Slozak and Mayor Al King talk with the village council.
Slozak said he spoke with Walnut Creek Mayor Ritt and Councilman Best after Monday's meeting and realized that the request didn't have anything to do with a lack of money, but more to do with the timing of the bids for the project.
But if Goldsboro carries too much debt over into the next fiscal year, the city might not be able to sell sewer bonds to finance a recent annexation.
Slozak said he thought there might be a way to give the village a two-month extension.
"I think there's a way to bill it as a receivable, if it's received in the following 60 days," he said. "We might be able to work something out."
Slozak also hopes that the city can figure out how to get the more than $400,000 he says that Fremont owes.
Fremont joined the sewer system along with Eureka. Both towns send their waste along the line. Eureka pays Fremont, and Fremont pays Goldsboro. The cost is based on the amount of flow.
Fremont's problem with the line to Goldsboro is that it is sending more sewage than it thought it would to the Goldsboro plant. The bill will be about $347,000, Fremont officials said.
The retiring Fremont town administrator, Tom Barnes, said part of the money will come from $254,000 that the town received for sewer repairs and the added capacity. The town will still owe about $92,000 to Goldsboro.
Fremont's problem is that its sewage system is old and cracked and allows stormwater to seep into it. This means it has more sewage flow entering Goldsboro. The ultimate goal is to fix or replace those lines to prevent the leakage. But in the meantime, the town says it needs more capacity.
Slozak said Goldsboro had worked with Fremont for some months and had gotten the payment down, but it's gone up again.
"We thought they were getting a grant or low-interest loan," Slozak said, "but I don't where that stands."
Fremont officials also have said their meters are registering three times more waste than Eureka's meters are showing. The state has intervened and allowed Eureka to disconnect from the line by installing two valves and then diverting sewage to its lagoons.
Dr. Mike Acquesta, the contracted engineer for both towns from the Raleigh firm of Pierson and Whitman, told the Fremont town board recently that the Fremont meters were accurate to within 10 percent of each other.
Eureka had threatened to disconnect from the line, but town officials later wrote a letter to Fremont officials, saying they would not do so. Instead, they were allowed to add the two valves until the problem was resolved.
In the meantime, officials from both towns and Acquesta were to meet with a representative from the meter manufacturer to determine the problem.
Ray Lancaster, former Eureka commissioner, has been testing the meters and has made several reports to the board. Somehow Fremont is still showing that the town is pumping three times more gallons than it actually is, he said.
Al Hodge with the N.C. Division of Water Quality approved the two-valved line, which cost $5,000. The town will continue to use the lagoons until someone finds out what is wrong with the conveyance line.
Lancaster said that before the town hooked on to the Fremont-Goldsboro system in February, the flow meters indicated the town pumped around 23,000 gallons per day. The meters are now indicating that it is pumping around 70,000 gallons per day.
The town has received bills totaling over $30,000 in four months. Using the lagoons would cost the town only $35,000 a year.
Lancaster said the larger bills have not caused the rates to go up for customers. The board budgeted an extra $20,000 a year before the conveyance line was installed.
He said the town is working with Fremont and Goldsboro officials. Fremont officials said that Eureka may, for now, pay based on what it thinks it is pumping. If it cannot determine what is wrong, it will have to pay the rest.
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