09/23/07 — Eureka figures payments but still hunts funding

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Eureka figures payments but still hunts funding

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on September 23, 2007 2:06 AM

EUREKA -- The $160,000 sewer debt shared by this town of about 150 people will get paid in $40,000 installments over two years, officials said.

They just are not exactly sure how they will accomplish that goal.

The installments total out to one payment every six months, Eureka Finance Commissioner Myrtie Sauls said.

But although town officials have figured out the payments, Ms. Sauls says she is still not exactly sure how Eureka -- where median family income is well below the national average -- will find funds to pay.

Eureka owes Fremont the $160,000 for excess sewage -- caused by huge leaks in Eureka's 25-year-old underground sewer system.

Fremont, in turn, owes about $160,000 to Goldsboro. Goldsboro's sewage facilities treat sewage pumped from both towns.

The Local Government Commission -- a state board that governs borrowed municipal money -- had a joint meeting with Fremont and Eureka, said Sara Lang, communications director for the Department of the State Treasurer.

The commission oversees indebtedness of state municipalities and counties, and even has the power to seize an entity's books if it thinks it's headed for fiscal trouble.

Fremont Alderman W.T. Smith said that the commission told Eureka its balance sheet actually looked pretty good.

"The Local Government Commission told them they were in better shape than most small towns," Smith said.

But Mrs. Sauls says town residents already pay well over 2.5 percent of their income on sewer bills, which is the recommended maximum.

She says she is hoping that the sewer rehabilitation project, overseen by the Greenville-based Wooten Company, will help drive down bills.

One other possible revenue source is a land sale, Mrs. Sauls said -- commissioners just took down a water tower on Red Hill Road, just outside of town.

"I'm thinking we'll probably put that property up for sale, and use that," she said.

The finance commissioner said she has no idea what the property is worth.

"I'm going to call a gentleman that does appraisal work," she said.

Besides the property sale, the town will have to use funds it collects from the sewer account and the general fund, the finance commissioner said.

The town of Eureka has a total $288,355 budgeted in its general fund for the upcoming fiscal year, Town Clerk Reta Chase said.

"Anything we can accumulate in the sewer account," Mrs. Sauls said. "Other than that, it's going to have to come from the general fund."