07/01/04 — Eureka finds little relief in meeting with Fremont to resolve sewer issues

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Eureka finds little relief in meeting with Fremont to resolve sewer issues

By Sam Atkins
Published in News on July 1, 2004 1:59 PM

EUREKA -- Eureka and Fremont officials tried Wednesday to determine the best way to correct sewer billing problems that have been causing headaches for Eureka officials for months.

Eureka residents have voiced their concerns about the high sewer bills from Fremont and about the town's shrinking tax base. There are many senior citizens on a fixed income who cannot afford to pay the high sewer bills, they say.

Fremont officials have said their meters are registering three times more waste than Eureka's meters are showing, and the town owes Fremont around $16,000. It has paid $6,000.

Fremont officials have said that Eureka may, for now, pay based on what it thinks it is pumping. Eureka only has 110 residents to split the sewer bills.

The state allowed Eureka to disconnect from the Fremont line and divert sewage to its lagoons, which were part of the old sewer system. But the board recently received a letter from the N.C. Division of Water Quality stating it would not renew the permit for the lagoons.

Ray Lancaster, former Eureka commissioner, said the state may let the town continue to use the lagoons if it shows it is trying to fix the problem. Otherwise, the town will be using the lagoons illegally and may be forced to hook back on to the line with Fremont.

All of the waste on the Fremont line is treated in Goldsboro. Goldsboro has said Fremont is also behind on its payments for the service. Fremont has also been pumping more waste than was intended.

One of the problems has been rainwater getting into cracks in the aging pipes. This causes more flow to the sewer system.

Mike Acquesta, an engineer, said the two towns received a lump sum of $6 million from the state to connect to the Goldsboro sewer system and there should be some money left over for Eureka to repair its system.

He said the town could use that money to find the problems and then apply for a $400,000 grant from the N.C. Rural Center to do more work.

The Rural Center grant requires a 10 percent match, and the application is due by Sept. 30. The town has only one chance to apply for it, and the commissioners were unsure how they could get the 10 percent match.

Acquesta said they could possibly use money left over from the $6 million grant used to build the lines for the towns. He is not sure how much money is left.

Lancaster said the state is holding back the leftover grant money and will not release it until Eureka gets back on the Fremont line.

Board members expressed concern that Eureka has only used a very small portion of the $6 million and Fremont has used a much larger amount.

Fremont owns the line and is charging Eureka 15 percent more than what Goldsboro is charging Fremont. Board members asked what kind of profit Fremont is making off of the town.

Fremont Town Administrat-or Kerry McDuffie said the town is not really making any profit because of the costs of maintaining the system.

Lancaster said the town got into the 40-year sewer contract with Fremont not knowing the rates would be so high.

The Eureka board later approved a motion for Acquesta to apply for grants to rehabilitate the system and cut down on stormwater infiltration. The board also approved a motion to allow Lancaster to calibrate the meters so it will know how much sewer is being pumped per minute.

The town has already been approved for a grant from the state for fencing around the pump stations, generators, a telemetry system and manholes.

The plans still need to be approved and then the town can move forward with those items, said Acquesta.

Budget approved

After the sewer discussion, the board adopted the budget for 2004-2005. The entire budget is $122,742 and includes a pay raise of $5 a month for the commissioners and the mayor. Property taxes will stay the same.

Other expenditures include the following:

*$22,000 for sewer charges from Fremont.

*$5,300 for a town manager.

*$6,500 for fire tax distribution.

*$10,800 for safety patrol salaries.

*$2,000 for patrol car service.

*$3,000 for a cemetery survey.

*$500 for new plot markers.

There is a new postal clerk, Denise Lewis, and $8,316 is budgeted for her salary.

Revenue items in the budget include the following:

*$16,000 for cemetery sales.

*$16,400 for solid waste fees.

*$23,600 for local sales tax.