01/04/10 — Fremont looks ahead to growth in '10

View Archive

Fremont looks ahead to growth in '10

By Laura Collins
Published in News on January 4, 2010 1:46 PM

Over the past year, Fremont has made several improvements that might be under the radar, but are saving the town money, officials say.

"A lot of the stuff we've been doing is not stuff the public is going to see, but it's about efficiency," Town Administrator Kerry McDuffie said.

One of the main accomplishments of the town has been installing automated electric meters this past March. With the new meters, a radio signal sends a reading directly to the handheld device that is within 300 feet of the meters. Before the switch, it would take two town employees four days to read all the meters. Now it takes one employee three days.

"The more efficiently we can read the utilities, the more cost-effective it is for the homeowners. It also is more accurate with the radio signal sending a reading directly to the handheld and the handheld can send it directly to the computer."

In addition to the electric meters, the town also installed 145 automated water meters.

In March, the town also ordered a grapple truck, which was put into service Dec. 3. It can pick up about 3,500 pounds and helps in yard waste collection.

"It makes it really easy when you collect limbs and bulk items rather than employees doing it by hand," McDuffie said. "It's just another piece of equipment that will create efficiencies in what we're doing."

Ongoing sewer projects throughout the year are set to wrap up shortly and with the help of a grant from the state, the town purchased a sewer camera.

"I've had several board members say, and I agree, that it is probably the best thing the town has ever purchased," McDuffie said.

The camera was ordered in February. In March it was used to find $200,000 worth of sewer work that needed to be redone, which the town had paid for and was still under warranty.

McDuffie added that one low point stands out in his mind from 2009: The death of Fremont police officer Russell Herring on Jan. 23.

"We had just hired him a few months before. We were really excited about him," he said.

Looking toward 2010, McDuffie said he is hoping to see the town come up with ways to increase its tax base. The board of aldermen have a goal-setting work session scheduled for Jan. 9.

"We know that we have a mindset that we're going to do some growth here in town. We have to. The town has decreased in population, decreased in the number of businesses and decreased in the tax base over the past 40 years."

As for the police department, Chief R.K. Rawlings said his goal for the upcoming year is to hire more officers.

"Our goal is to try to get more manpower, to get up the staff so that I have some bodies to work with," he said. "For a town this size, we should have about seven full-time officers. We have slots for four full-time officers. I would love to have more full-time officers that have a dedicated stake in the city."

In addition to manpower, Rawlings said the police department is going to focus on reducing the drug activity in Fremont.