Fremont repairs under way
By Steve Herring
Published in News on January 7, 2011 1:46 PM
News-Argus/MICHAEL K. DAKOTA
Brian Laux of Municipal Engineering watches Cory Bordeaux, of Cory Bordeaux Construction, assemble piping while working in Fremont repairing sewer pipes. Grant money from the North Carolina Rural Center lets the city use independent contractors to repair old and broken pipes.
FREMONT -- Construction crews Monday began repairing sewer lines throughout the town of Fremont as part of a project that is expected to take several months to complete and that could cause some traffic disruptions.
A North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center grant of $348,000, augmented by another $44,000 grant after bids came in over budget, is paying for the project.
Neighboring Eureka received $22,000 from the Rural Center as well for help in identifying sewer problems that have contributed to almost $50,000 that it owes Fremont -- a mounting debt that Fremont officials say could require legal action to settle.
Both Fremont and Eureka's sewage is treated by the city of Goldsboro. Fremont uses its sewer lines to transport Eureka's sewage to Goldsboro, for which it bills Eureka monthly.
But Eureka doesn't always pay the monthly bill in full and it now owes Fremont $47,418.79. The last payment was $6,500 on Dec. 8.
Fremont began handling the transfer in January 2003 and the last time Eureka had a zero balance was in December 2004. Its debt has been as high as $170,545, in March 2007.
Fremont charges Eureka $5.49 per gallon plus a 10-percent surcharge and the town is basically just breaking even, Fremont Town Administrator Kerry McDuffie said. Eureka pays Fremont $6,500 per month, he said.
McDuffie said Eureka officials had said that their town had $20,000 in certificates of deposit that they planned to cash in and would pay Fremont.
"We told them to hold onto it and fix the hole (in the sewer line) and they would be able to pay it off quicker," he said.
McDuffie said that the longer the debt remains, the closer Fremont is to taking legal action against Eureka. He said Fremont could not cut off the Eureka customers because they were paying their bills to the town. That would not be fair to those customers, he said. However, it is not fair to Fremont customers to be paying for Eureka either, he added.
"We are not far away from legal action," he said. "We are not going to let it go on forever. We are still concerned about the level of response they have had."
Eureka Mayor Doug Booth said rehabilitation of the lines had not done "what we had hope it would do."
The town has hired another engineering firm to look at the problem and try to come up with other options, including videoing the sewer lines, cleaning the lines out and installing flow meters, Booth said.
Hopefully that will pinpoint the problem and the town can get more grant money to do the work, he said.
"We do make monthly payments," he said.
Booth said the town had appreciated Fremont's suggestion that Eureka use its certificate of deposit to help make the repairs.
"We liked that. We are about broke up here," he said.
Booth said that the town might have other certificates of deposit that the town could cash in to help pay down the debt.
Fremont received the first grant months ago. The second grant, one of 38 including the $22,000 for Eureka, was announced last month.
Those 38 grants, totaling more than $5 million, are designed to create jobs, provide clean water and promote economic development in North Carolina.
The Rural Center's board of directors approved the grants Dec. 15 and the grants were made possible by appropriations of the Legislature.
The bids for the Fremont project were opened in September and T.A. Loving Co. of Goldsboro won the contract.
"The bids came in a bit more than the money we had and the Rural Center was gracious enough to provide additional funding," McDuffie said. "They have been absolutely wonderful to work with.
"Construction started (Monday) basically all over town -- East Main Street, West Branch Street -- all over town. You will see some traffic interruptions around town. It should be completed by June if not earlier."
The town received $101,879 from the Rural Center in 2009 that was used to purchase a video system that allowed it to send a camera through the sewer lines to pinpoint problems.
In the past, the town had contracted that work out at a cost of about $50,000 to $55,000, McDuffie said. The problem was that the company doing the videoing was seldom checking the lines when it was raining -- the best time to find the cracks where water was entering the sewer lines, he said.
"We knew we had a problem with water getting in the system," he said. "By having our own camera, we can find the leaks when the rain comes."
Once in the system, the storm water or ground water has to be treated, resulting in added volume and costs.
"This money allows us to go in and repair those places," McDuffie said. "It is mostly point repairs. Without a doubt, it (the camera) is one of our best investments. We can TV it time after time. It also allows us to check on the work."
Fremont has also uses the camera to video sewer lines in Eureka that received the $22,600 to monitor the wastewater treatment system and develop a plan to reduce excessive flow.
McDuffie said the TV work had cost Fremont about $700 just for paying its employees.
"We know of one big problem down there," McDuffie said. "If I had that big a hole I would have fixed it by now. That is costing them thousands of dollars a month."