03/12/09 — Fremont could lose funding to make sewer improvements

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Fremont could lose funding to make sewer improvements

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on March 12, 2009 1:46 PM

Town officials -- and residents -- could save some money on their monthly sewer bills, but only if the Clean Water Management Trust Fund doesn't pull funding for much-needed sewer improvements that would decrease the amount of rainwater in the town's system.

The town could lose $116,000 in trust fund money that was planned to be used to replace eight manholes, repair a section of sewer line on Dickinson Street and to put a liner in two lift stations.

"We'd been granted the money (to do these projects) from the trust fund," Town Manager Kerry McDuffie said. "They sent us a contract, we signed it and sent it back. We are just waiting for them to send it back to us."

The trust fund was one of the funding agencies on the chopping block that would make it easier for the state to balance its budget.

McDuffie said he hasn't been "formally notified" that the trust fund will pull the town's funding for the project, but he has heard informally that the money is no longer coming.

"I have seen an e-mail that the trust fund put out, saying they were going to be pulling projects, and Fremont was on that list," he said.

The e-mail came just three days after the deadline to apply for federal stimulus funds -- a list the town's project could have been on and might have been awarded money for, if officials had known before the stimulus deadline that the trust fund was pulling the money.

"They wanted shovel-ready projects (for the stimulus). We've got as close to a shovel-ready project as there is," he said.

Bids for the sewer project have already gone out, and McDuffie said the only action left is for the town's Board of Aldermen to award a bid.

"We're ready to award our bid, and then we're ready to build," he said, and added that he was also informally told that if funds were taken from the project that it would "automatically" move to the list for federal stimulus funding.

But that didn't happen either, he said.

"I just looked at the stimulus list (Wednesday) morning, and our project isn't on it," he said.

The sewer system project is one that is critical to the town, McDuffie said.

"This is work that is really, really necessary to keep the rainwater out of our sewer system" -- especially around the eight manholes where there is a "dramatic problem of rainwater entering the system," he said.

The project would also help residents as well.

"This could save our residents money," he said. "Let me just say that we send our sewage and rainwater to Goldsboro to treat. We pay them $5 per 1,000 gallons. And to treat rainwater last month, we paid Goldsboro $28,000."

That translates to about $30 per household.

McDuffie knows that the sewer improvements won't stop all rainwater from entering the system, but it would help.

"If we fix it, there is no guarantee that we will get all of it out, but we would get some of it," he said. "How much, I don't know. We would have to do it and then evaluate it to see. But it's got to be fixed."

The Clean Water Manage-ment Trust Fund met Wednesday, and McDuffie said he is hoping for a solution but isn't sure what it will be.

"Right now, I'm trying to figure out the game plan. How do you respond to this? I'm not sure what (the trust fund) is supposed to do either. Their funding was cut, so they can't keep giving money out," he said. "We will just have to wait and see."