The Town of Frankford held its monthly council meeting on Dec. 5, at which council members and those in attendance discussed the Town’s seemingly troublesome water plant.
During the water department report, Clarence Quillen of Tidewater Utilities said that preventative maintenance on the plant has not been done on the plant’s equipment for 16 years — since its installation.
“All we have been doing is repairing it as it breaks down,” explained Quillen. “We’re running it to breakdown.”
Preventative maintenance is essential, said Quillen, giving the analogy that the Town was “running a brand-new car without changing the oil.”
Quillen said that when the plant was first opened, there had been talk of a preventative maintenance schedule; however, “it fell to the wayside,” noting that while the water company drafted a maintenance plan, it was never approved by previous councils.
Resident Jerry Smith asked if any equipment failure was definitely caused by the lack of maintenance.
“The shaft had no oil in it. There was a gear box with no oil in it. There’s a reason you put oil in it. That is the complete reason why that failed.”
Smith also asked if there was maintenance a town employee could be trained to do, in order to be more cost-effective.
“Certain things, yes,” said Quillen.
Councilman Marty Presley added that the Town essentially has two water plants that were not designed to work together.
“We’ve been fighting it ever since.”
He added that the Town is working on getting an independent third party to come in and assess the plant, “to see if this plant is viable, and what it would take to get it up to modern-day standards.”
Presley said Councilman Greg Welch and Quillen had come up with an itinerary of plant maintenance for the current budget year; however, the Town has been unable to stick with the schedule because of the immediacy of other problems that have popped up.
Quillen added that he and Welch had had a meeting with the State and Delaware Rural Water Association to discuss adding fluoride to the Town’s water, as mandated by state law.
“I told them what my concerns were; hopefully, they listen. I thought it was a productive meeting,” he said. “I think I brought up some real good points, saying this is not the time to put it on, but they are really looking at putting fluoride in the plant.”
“It’s mainly an issue of funding,” added Welch. “Clarence is concerned about the safety of just doing that for the funding. He wants it to be done so it’s safe… There’s a work-around I believe we can come up with, where we can just get the funding. We need to look at this whole plant. We need the asset management…”
Presley said the Town is trying to get its attorney to write letter to get a temporary moratorium on putting the fluoride in until the asset management plan can identify the needs of the plant.
“I don’t want fluoride running through our water until it is 100 percent safe,” said Council President Joanne Bacon. “I’m not willing to have fluoride run through just to get funding.”
Returning to the subject of the plant’s maintenance, Quillen said he wanted to make sure the council and town residents knew that the issues with the plant are not due to negligence from his operators or anyone on the current or previous council.
“The most honest truth is even previous council had no knowledge of the water plant. Did the Town know? They didn’t know,” he said. “We are working on it. There are a lot of eyes on it right now.”
Yearly audit completed
Presley told those in attendance that Jefferson, Urian, Doane & Sterner P.A. had finished its audit of the Town’s 2016 fiscal year.
“We’ve only had it probably a couple of days. Joanne has responded to it. We don’t even have hard copies here,” he said, adding that those who wish to have a copy may visit town hall or the Town’s website.
Presley said the audit did not include anything “earthshattering.”
“All the things the auditor pointed out in there we’re diligently working on.”
Presley said the council would discuss the audit at length at their Jan. 9 council meeting.