03/02/07 — Fremont owes city $213,383 for sewer

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Fremont owes city $213,383 for sewer

By Lee Williams
Published in News on March 2, 2007 1:51 PM

Officials from Eureka, Fremont and Goldsboro are expected to meet with the League of Municipalities to discuss how to best settle a past due $213,383 sewer bill and avoid a civil suit.

Meanwhile, the town of Fremont is looking for ways to recoup the nearly $137,000 the town of Eureka owes the town for sewer service.

In an e-mail, Goldsboro City Manager Joe Huffman put Fremont's bill for February service at $73,408.72. The town's past due balance is $95,621.28.

He added that, in addition to the usage amounts, the town owes the city $44,353 for reserved capacity at the treatment plant. Huffman said the bill has been turned over to the City Attorney's Office for review.

Huffman said every day the city has to cut off residents who do not pay their sewer bills, but added that officials understand Fremont's situation and want to resolve the situation amicably.

"We are trying to work with them because we know they have infiltration and inflow problems," he said.

Fremont Town Administrator Kerry McDuffie acknowledged the town has an outstanding bill during Board of Aldermen's meeting Feb. 20. However, McDuffie did not specify the total amount owed or when or how the town expected to settle the debt.

McDuffie told the board Fremont fell about $20,000 short on January's sewer bill since they collected a little more than $30,000 from the citizens and $30,000 from the town of Eureka.

McDuffie said he sent a $64,000 check for the $84,874.22 sewer bill owed to Goldsboro for January usage, but he said city officials were displeased with the amount paid.

"I called the city of Goldsboro and let them know that that's what we were going to send the check for and the city of Goldsboro is not happy with that. I understand that. They still have an outstanding balance owed to them," McDuffie said. "We need to pay our bills, but we just don't have the money."

McDuffie indicated the issue of settling the town's debt with Goldsboro is further impacted by Eureka's back sewer bill.

McDuffie said Eureka initially owed Fremont $167,000, but recently paid Fremont $30,000 after receiving pressure from the Local Government Commission.

Eureka officials don't deny they owe Fremont, but what they do question is why their sewer bills from Fremont are always so high.

Eureka Town Clerk Reta Chase said February's bill came to $24,000. The January bill was about $23,000. The December bill was about $19,000. November's bill was about $18,000 and October's was about $15,000.

And what's even more bothersome, she said, is last year's sewer bills from Fremont nose-dived from July's nearly $19,000 bill to $7,000 in August and then jumped back up to $15,500 in September.

"We need somebody to explain why to us, too," Ms. Chase said. "The amounts of the bills have always spiked."

The town stopped using Fremont's sewer system for a while after the bills started coming in January 2004.

"They billed us for January and February, and it was $16,714. We about had a stroke ... We went off it as soon as we got the bill. It was just not right," she said.

Eureka used lagoons when it had its own sewer system and officials decided to return to that method for sewage treatment.

That lasted about four months until state environmental officials stepped in and told officials to go back to Fremont's sewer system.

"We looked for grant money, but in the meantime, we had to go back on-line," Ms. Chase said.

Eureka can only afford to pay $4,000 a month to Fremont, she said. That is about how much Eureka was charging its residents under the lagoon system, Ms. Chase added.

The town has had an average of 117 hook-ups. The average household sewer bill in Eureka is about $50.

"For four years now (sewer) is all we talk about at the board meetings, and we're so tired of it," Ms Chase said.

Officials are hopeful repair work under way in Eureka will alleviate the problem. Work begins next week on manholes to help stop major leaks.

And Fremont officials believe they have found a solution to the system's infiltration problem.

"We're looking for any kind of relief," Ms. Chase said.