03/19/09 — Fremont working to keep sewer system repairs money

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Fremont working to keep sewer system repairs money

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on March 19, 2009 1:46 PM

FREMONT -- After hearing a few weeks ago that the Clean Water Management Trust Fund took back money that was granted to Fremont for improvements to the sewer system, the Board of Aldermen learned Tuesday night that other funding for the project from the Rural Center might be held up.

Town Manager Kerry McDuffie started the discussion by going back to the beginning of the sewer improvement project, telling board members that the total estimated cost to replace manholes, repair sewer lines and improve the system overall was estimated at $464,000 -- $116,000 of which was promised by the Clean Water fund.

But with Gov. Beverly Perdue trying to balance the state's budget, Clean Water money got the ax.

Fremont officials were told then that the sewer project would "automatically" move onto the list for possible federal stimulus funding.

But the project wasn't on the stimulus list until McDuffie looked, didn't find it and commented about it in a news report.

Then a call came from Clean Water, ensuring that Fremont's sewer project was on the stimulus list.

Several members of the board and McDuffie traveled to Raleigh earlier this week to try to get some of that $116,000 back.

They pleaded their case to the state Construction Grants and Loans, a section of the Division of Water Quality, and the entity that will handle the dispersing of the $78 million in federal stimulus money for sewer systems in the state.

"We told them it was about as shovel-ready as you can get," McDuffie said.

With that money, the town will just have to cross its fingers and wait, he added.

"The problem is, there are $78 million in funds to award to sewer projects in the state and there are $2.6 billion in requests," the town manager said. "That means we have about a 3 percent chance of getting funded. Don't get your hopes up for that."

McDuffie told officials that the town could still see money coming from the Rural Center, which would provide a grant for three-fourths of the other $348,000.

But the only way to spend that money is to come up with the other 25 percent of it first.

And that funding might not be completely safe.

McDuffie told the board that he spoke with Rural Center representatives, and he told them the town had already purchased a camera for the sewer that cost around $101,000 that would help to identify problems.

"The Rural Center told me that they would send the full amount to us for the sewer camera, but not to move forward, to just hold up," he said.

The town was proceeding with the process to improve the sewer and was at the point of receiving bids until officials heard news from representatives of the Clean Water, and then from the Rural Center, to stop.

"The low bidder (for the project) has to maintain the estimate for 60 days. That would be April 25," McDuffie told the aldermen.

"The Rural Center asked us to see if the bidder would extend his estimate to June 30. ... I don't know where this is headed."

Some of the good news, he told the board, is that representatives from the state have told him that projects contracted before June 30 will be awarded before any other project, and it's still possible that Clean Water would get some of its money back.

"Gov. Perdue put $75 million in her budget requests for Clean Water," he said.

And if all else fails, the town can go to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the money for the sewer improvements.

"But that will be almost all loan," McDuffie said.

In a separate discussion, the board of aldermen spoke about the spray field project -- a way that officials hope to save money on wastewater by spraying some of it onto a field instead of paying to send it to Goldsboro, which costs $5 per 1,000 gallons.

Money for the spray field project will come from the Rural Center and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, McDuffie said, but the town was also hoping for about $500,000 from Clean Water to help place liners on the spray field.

With liners, the project is estimated to cost $1.458 million.

But Clean Water didn't rank the project high enough on the need list, McDuffie said, and the project didn't receive funding.

Without liners, the project is estimated to cost $958,000 -- $500,000 of which will come from the Rural Center and $458,000 of which will come from the Dept. of Agriculture in the form of grants and loans. The town would likely receive $300,000 in a grant from the USDA and would likely receive a loan in the amount of $158,000.

If money from the Rural Center doesn't come in, the town can get all $958,000 for the project from the USDA, but $658,000 would be in the form of a loan.

Board members didn't have much to say about either the sewer project or the spray field project.

McDuffie said the board would just have to wait and see about the funding for the spray field as well.

In other business, the town announced that it will hold an energy efficiency workshop with ElectriCities on March 31 at 6 p.m. at the Town Hall for residents who can't be at home from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., when the power representative often stops by homes. For informatioan, call the Town Hall at 242-5151.