05/07/06 — Fremont mayor says sewer overhaul a step forward

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Fremont mayor says sewer overhaul a step forward

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on May 7, 2006 2:05 AM

FREMONT -- Fremont leaders believe the northern Wayne County town is ready for the future, and a big reason is the continued overhaul of its aging sewer system.

"I feel real good about where we're headed," Mayor Devone Jones said. "What we're doing" with sewer repairs "is putting us in the right direction."

Jones predicted that residents would see a big difference once the town's sewer lines are repaired.

Town Administrator Kerry McDuffie said the town's entire sewer system will be videotaped so that problem areas can be pinpointed. The $84,000 project should be completed in a few weeks. Then the town will use a $1.5 million grant to fix the lines.

"That should be enough to take care of it," Jones said.

"If it's not," McDuffie added, "then we'll know where the worst problems are, and we can get more money."

The entire project might take a year.

Town officials have been concerned about sewer rates. A big reason the rates are so high is that rainwater is infiltrating the system and being sent to Goldsboro for treatment along with sewage.

"One of the big things we're looking forward to," McDuffie said, with the improvements, "is to reduce the cost of utilities."

"Sometimes the sewer bill is half rainwater," the mayor added.

In the past Fremont adopted a Band-Aid approach to fix sewer lines, doing a little here and a little there. Now, it has the money to repair the entire system.

McDuffie also is preparing the 2006-07 town budget. He would not say if the 65-cent property tax rate would be changed, but he noted that the town should have a positive balance in its general fund for the first time in several years.

"We've made good progress in our financial condition," he said.

McDuffie noted that new businesses were opening and new homes were being built.

Jones said he understood why the property tax rate was raised 30 percent, from 50 to 65 cents, after he took office.

"We went along with it and didn't try to fool anyone," he said of the need for the big increase.

"...We're headed in the right direction now. I'm real pleased from where we came and where we are at now" financially.

For now, McDuffie said, the town is completing small projects before tackling bigger ones. One was the purchase of 11 American and 11 welcome flags by businesses and individuals. He hoped the flags will be placed around town before Memorial Day.

One of the town board's priorities, Jones and McDuffie agree, is economic development.

A new real estate business will open on East Main Street, a motorcycle shop was opened and an old building across from BB&T was bought and might be remodeled.

The new interchange of U.S. 117 and N.C. 222, just west of town, might be prime real estate for a new gas station, fast-food restaurant or even a motel. Jones said the landowners were surveyed about being annexed into the town and to see what businesses would be accepted.

When the new U.S. 117 is completed from Goldsboro to Wilson, Jones said residents will reach Raleigh and Greenville much easier.

Jones said he has tried to visit the town's businesses to ask if there were anything that Fremont could do to assist them.

The mayor and other town leaders have been to Raleigh to talk to the Legislature and to Washington to meet with Rep. Walter Jones. He thanked them for their help and also Sheriff Carey Winders, whose deputies helped patrol the town while the Police Department was short-handed.

Among other achievements, McDuffie said the Fire Department celebrated its 100th anniversary and bought a new fire truck, the southern part of the new U.S. 117 was finished, grants have been received for the police and new homes are being built.

The grants included $20,000 for police cars, $7,500 for a video camera surveillance system and $8,500 for computers for police cars. New street lights also will be erected in high-crime areas.

Wayne Schwark was promoted recently from sergeant to police chief "and is doing well," the mayor said. His predecessor, Ben Reid Jr., who retired, has returned to work part-time.

Jones said he wants more recreational opportunities for youths. New basketball goals and improved tennis courts will be finished in late May.

"We've had a lot of positive things going on" in the last year, McDuffie said.