12/08/06 — Eureka Town Board opens sewer bids

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Eureka Town Board opens sewer bids

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on December 8, 2006 1:45 PM

EUREKA -- Officials with the town of Eureka opened bids Tuesday for a project aimed at fixing the town's leaky sewer system.

T.A. Loving Co. of Goldsboro appeared to be the low bidder for the portion of the projection intended to repair the system's lines, with a price of $689,000. Water and Waste Systems of Raleigh appeared to be the low bidder on work at the Baker Street pumping station with a bid of $175,000.

Engineers with The Wooten Company, the town's engineering consultant, will study the bids to make sure all the bidding companies met the specifications for the projects. Town officials said they expect a recommendation from Wooten soon. At that point, the town board will decide whether to accept or reject the bids. If the bids are accepted, the town will then award contracts for the work to begin.

All of the bids came in under budget, town board member Myrtie Sauls said. She said the town board is hoping the rehabilitation work will stop the leaks in the system that have plagued the town and pushed sewer costs up.

The average sewer system for a town the size of Eureka, which has 114 customers, normally would be about 20,000 gallons a day, engineers say, but the leaks in the aging Eureka system is permitting three times that much water to pass through its lines. Video cameras installed in the lines this summer revealed that water infiltration into the sewer lines is coming in so fast in some places that engineers called them "gushers," instead of mere leaks.

The town has about $1.2 million to work with, including $115,000 that was left over from previous work on the system, when the it tied its lines into those of the town of Fremont. It also has another $200,000 available from the Rural Center, which distributes grant money for public works projects around the state. The state Clean Water Management Trust Fund has also awarded the town a $923,000 grant to help remedy the situation.

But already the town is close to $135,000 in the red when it comes to paying its sewer bill to the town of Fremont.

Eureka paid $3,500 a month to Fremont last year, and the bills increased to $4,500 a month this year. But that was before the "gushers" got so bad, town officials said. Last month, the town's bill last month was $17,000.

Ms. Sauls said when the town turned over its water system to the Belfast-Patetown Sanitary District, town officials tried to sell them the sewer system, as well. But she said Belfast-Patetown officials declined, saying they did not want to get into the sewer business.

To come up with the money necessary to catch up in payments to the town of Fremont, Eureka would have to charge its customers more than $150 a month, Mrs. Sauls said.

"We can barely keep our head above water -- above sewer," she said. "That is the number one thing people are not happy about. If there's not some money somewhere, we're in trouble."

Mayor Steve Howell said the $150 a month for sewer and another $20 for water wouldn't even touch the town's deficit.

"That would just keep us even," he said. "We're going in the hole roughly $13,000 a month. (The engineers) are telling us we'll still have 50 percent infiltration after the rehab work. We'll still be going into the hole. We're just cutting the deficit in half."

Howell urged all the members of the town board to attend an economic development meeting Dec. 19 at 11 a.m. at the Fremont Town Hall.

Eureka's sewer problem is an economic development problem, Howell said.

"We're drowning in sewer, and our tax rate is so high that, when a family moves out or somebody dies, the new owner rents the house out, and it's value starts going downhill. We can't drag people into this town," Howell said.

The problem is the same all over North Carolina, Ms. Sauls said.

"Sewer systems across the state are sucking the small towns dry. Raleigh's tax rate is about half what ours is ... We all need to sit on Santa's knee."