City is moving forward on new sewer
By Ty Johnson
Published in News on April 13, 2011 1:46 PM
Even though a de-annexation bill sits in committee at the General Assembly, Goldsboro is following through on its commitment to provide sewer service to the region known as Phase XI, which includes the Buck Swamp and Fallingbrook areas.
House Bill 196 received a favorable recommendation from the House Government Committee after a March 24 public hearing and has been referred to the House Finance Committee.
If it makes it through all the hurdles to become law, the measure would negate the city's involuntary annexation of property in Phase XI.
City Engineer Marty Anderson, who presented a resolution to authorize a contract for the installation of the pump station at last week's City Council meeting, said he is concerned about the bill, but that his instructions are to move forward with the project.
"I'm moving forward with it. I don't know what they'll do," he said of the council. His request to proceed was approved with no opposition by the council, despite being pulled from the consent agenda.
"I've discussed it with them in the past that I'm moving forward until they tell me to stop," Anderson said. "I'm just doing my job, so when they tell me to stop, I'll stop. They voted to annex, and my responsibility is getting sewer out there."
The lack of a sewage system for the annexed area is a point of contention for residents in the Phase XI area who have fought the involuntary annexation since its proposal in 2004. After a lengthy court battle, the annexation became official in fall 2008, and, according to General Statute 160A-47-3C, meant the city had two years to get the area on its sewer line.
And although the lack of sewer is technically what the bill in the house seizes upon, Anderson said the reason for the opposition goes back to the residents' initial opposition almost seven years ago.
"I don't think the delay in the sewer is the reason. I don't think they wanted to be annexed in the first place," he said.
But Anderson wasn't employed with the city back then, and said when the annexation was challenged in court, the city halted the project completely.
"When it was taken to court, they just stopped everything because there was a chance they were going to lose the court battle," he said.
After the court upheld the annexation, Anderson said he had to "start from scratch," taking on the tall order of setting up a sewer system within two years, a deadline he said he didn't think other annexations had typically met either. Now, between negotiating a new contract and processing more than 80 individual easements, the city is finally ready to install its sewer line.
He added the city was cautious about investing money in the area in case the annexation was eventually ruled invalid.
"If we had gone ahead and done the design and had that ready to go, then all we would have had would have been easements," he said. "But do you spend a million dollars or do you not spend a million dollars?"
Now, more than two years and $3,766,043 later, the city has struck a contract with R. D. Braswell Construction of Smithfield for $412,919 for the installation of the pump station and is seeking to avoid any further delays in the sewer system's implementation.
"If there is some change, we'll have to address it at that time," Interim City Manager Tasha Logan said. "We don't want to have any further delays with the project."
Ms. Logan said that not actively working toward the complete implementation of the sewage system could be viewed as another point on which the city could be challenged for not meeting its two-year obligation, fanning the flames of those calling for the rejection of the annexation.
Ms. Logan said that if the de-annexation bill is passed, the city would then decide whether to fight the decision or to seek back a portion of its invested capital. She said there are still easements to be worked out, and that the funds, which are coming out of sewer bonds, will continue to go toward the city's investment in Phase XI
"I think the city has a legal obligation, based on the laws that are currently in place, to provide service to the area," she said.
Ms. Logan noted that since the annexation went into effect, the city has provided various city services to the area, including sewer, although it wasn't in the form of a line. Twenty-nine residents had petitioned for sewer service and one resident had utilized the city's services in handling a septic tank problem.
"If they have any problems with their systems, the city was responsible for repairs and we paid for having that system serviced," she said. "We're still making sure that we're taking care of those residents."
If the bill is approved by the Finance Committee, it will then reach the House floor for a vote. If passed, it would need to be approved by the Senate before going to the governor for her signature.