11/07/06 — Residents could get help with sewer hook-up bills

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Residents could get help with sewer hook-up bills

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on November 7, 2006 1:45 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- The Mount Olive Town Board is trying to help residents pay for hook-ups to its new sewer system.

The Town Board authorized Mayor Ruff Huggins to sign an application for a grant that could provide up to $75,000 to help low-income residents come up with the $1,000 hook-up fee. The board has already approved an ordinance requiring residents living along the lines to hook onto the system. State officials are pushing towns to switch from septic tanks wherever possible to help keep groundwater clean.

During a public hearing Monday night, Town Manager Charles Brown said state law requires residents who live close enough to hook onto a line to do so. He said town officials had identified about 90 residents in that situation and had notified them all by letter that they needed to comply with 90 days.

But the fee presents a problem for many people. Several showed up at the hearing to complain.

Some residents at the hearing said they do not believe it is fair for the town to help some residents and not others. Edward Cromartie complained about the preferential treatment to low-income families. He said he wants everybody who received the letter to get the same opportunity for a break on the cost to hook into the city system.

"I think every citizen in town wants to feel they're being treated equitably," Cromartie said.

Brown promised to make the transition from septic system to sewer system as equitable as possible.

Other residents were angry at being forced to hook onto the lines at all.

Mary Brinson of Glenn Street said her septic system works fine.

"Why all of a sudden do I have to pay to connect when I was told I could not before?" she asked.

Glen Odom of Tadlock Road told the board a sewer line in his neighborhood is almost above the ground.

"I'd have to do all my plumbing all over again. Now we're being asked to pay $1,000 apiece? I don't think that's right," Odom said.

Brown said he will try to make it as easy on the residents as possible.

"We're not trying to shove anything down anybody's throat," he said.

The town has not told anybody they will be handcuffed if they don't hook into the sewer system, he said. But hooking up to the lines where sewer is available is "something that is going to have to be done," Brown said.

Brown said he knew that some people would have problems with the fee. That led him to investigate the possibility of finding state money to help. He said he discovered a community development block grant that would help pay low-income homeowners with the hook-up costs.

Consultant David Cox with Harris RSM Harris Associates, which is helping the town with its sewer line expansion, said there is lots of competition for the grant but that he believes Mount Olive stands a good chance of getting the money.