05/30/10 — Fremont tells Eureka sewer bill balance must be paid

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Fremont tells Eureka sewer bill balance must be paid

By Laura Collins
Published in News on May 30, 2010 1:50 AM

The Eureka Board of Commissioners plans to meet Tuesday to discuss the $66,000 the town owes Fremont.

Fremont handles the sewage treatment for Eureka and sends the town a bill each month. But Eureka doesn't always pay the monthly bill in full, which has led to the $66,000 debt of accumulated charges.

Eureka Commissioner Myrtle Sauls said when the board approved its 2009-10 budget last July, officials only set aside $6,500 to pay Fremont each month.

"When we make our June payment to Fremont, we will have paid them $78,000 this year," Mrs. Sauls said. "We realize we have this bill, and we're going to try to catch up, at least a portion of it."

Mrs. Sauls said some of the problem originated when the town's bill was significantly higher then the $6,500 that had been allotted. Since December, she said the sewer bill has been around $12,000 to $15,000 each month.

"We paid Fremont $6,500 a month. When you have a $15,000 bill, that doesn't cover it. That's what we set up to pay in last year's budget and that's what we charge our people," she said. "The sewer system is very bad. With as much work that has been done with the system, we should be seeing much smaller bills."

Eureka began a sewer rehabilitation project about five years ago, which cost $1 million in grant money. Some of the town's sewer lines, which stretch about two miles, were repatched and replaced. But Mrs. Sauls said there has been "absolutely no difference."

To help repay the debt, Eureka is considering raising the surcharge from $16 to $18. The surcharge was $10 in 2008, then was raised again last July to $16.

"This is the figure I'm hoping we can hold it to to pay off this debt," Mrs. Sauls said, adding residents have been supportive in the past. "The people in this town realize the situation we're in. I think they realize the board is doing the best they can in this situation."

Eureka has about 109 sewer customers. If approved, raising the surcharge by $2 would bring in an additional $218 each month, which would bring in $2,616 each year. If that is the only change the town makes, it would take a little more than 25 years to pay off the debt, assuming no more debt is incurred.

"I think the town of Fremont knows the predicament we're in," she said. "We're doing about as good as we can."

Fremont Town Administra-tor Kerry McDuffie sent a letter to the Eureka board at the beginning of the month asking its members to address how the town plans on repaying the debt by Fremont's June 15 board meeting. He said the additional $2 is not ideal.

"That's not an appropriate amount to repay the debt and repay it in an appropriate time," he said. "That's not acceptable."

The town of Fremont has not been charging Eureka penalty fees, but McDuffie said if Eureka doesn't have a plan to him by the next board meeting, he is going to recommend the Fremont commissioners vote to start applying the fee.

"It's not fair to our citizens to keep paying for (Eureka's) sewer bill," McDuffie said.

If the fee is applied, it would add 10 percent of the total unpaid amount to the bill each month.