The Town of Frankford is still considering how to address its water tower and providing citizens with access to water, following the council’s monthly workshop on Jan. 4.
At the meeting, Town Engineer Kyle Gulbronson of URS said he had reviewed two bid proposals from the “very qualified firms” of Southern Corrosion and Pittsburg Tank & Tower Maintenance Co.
“Our recommendation is that the Southern Corrosion proposal is more complete, offers you more services and is actually about $30,000 cheaper over the 10-year range of the maintenance program. That’s really the best opportunity for the Town,” said Gulbronson. “Again, that’s something I think you need to move on.”
In March of 2015, representatives of Southern Corrosion, based in Roanoke Rapids, N.C., visited the town and inspected the water tower. The company handles maintenance and repair for all Artesian Water Company tanks. Their estimated cost was $111,000, which includes pressure-washing the exterior of the tank, cleaning rusted areas, painting it and sterilizing the tank’s interior.
Pittsburg Tank & Tower Maintenance Co. of Henderson, Ky., also provided a refreshed bid of $190,576 for work to the tank; however, they did not visit the site.
Steven Lewandowski of CABE Associates had given a presentation at the council’s July 6, 2015, meeting regarding two refreshed bids to provide service, and ultimately recommended the Town contract services with Southern Corrosion.
At the Jan. 4 meeting, Gulbronson added that there are also funding opportunities available to the Town that would completely pay for improvements to the water tower.
“We met just before the holidays with USDA [U.S. Department of Agriculture] and Delaware Rural Water,” said Gulbronson. “They’re offering the Town a 75 percent grant for water improvements — that’s engineering and construction. The State has offered 25 percent to make up that difference.”
Gulbronson added that the Town could have improvements made to Delaware Avenue through those grants, as opposed to paying for the improvements out of the Town’s coffers.
The residents of Delaware Avenue — a road in unincorporated Sussex County that runs through the Town of Frankford — have been trying to get clean drinking water since 1997, according to Delaware Avenue resident Wesley Hayes Jr.
“It’s conceivable we could do the improvements on Delaware Avenue, roll in the maintenance of the water tower and any other improvements the Town deems appropriate into that grant funding scenario,” Gulbronson said.
“You’re talking about trying to throw all these other projects in, which is great, let’s face it,” said Hayes. “What you’re standing up there saying right now is no more than what I told you guys in the meeting last month, the month before… That’s been there, but nobody was moving… Let’s face it, we’ve been discriminated too long, and the Town now has an opportunity to fix some things.”
Hayes said it is bothersome to him that, while the Town has yet to make a move on getting Delaware Avenue residents clean drinking water, having previously been told the Town wants to cautiously spend money, the Town would invest in purchasing property to be used for parking for the Town’s park.
“All we’re after is quality water, which is deserved for any individual.”
“Just to be fair, you guys, Delaware Avenue were given the opportunity when the water plant came online to come onboard with everybody in town,” said Councilman Marty Presley. “True, or not true?”
“No, we didn’t. No, we didn’t,” responded Hayes.
“My understanding is that the group on Delaware Avenue would not agree to be annexed into the town,” said Presley.
“No, we weren’t afforded that opportunity,” said Hayes.
“There’s nobody in town — regardless if the State is paying for the money or the federal government is paying for the money — unless you guys are agreeable to being annexed in… It’s still people’s money. I pay State taxes. I pay federal taxes…”
“We do, too,” Hayes said.
“Everybody in this room does. It’s not a matter of whether it’s coming out of the Town budget or not, it’s still taxpayer money that we have a fiduciary responsibility to look after,” said Presley.
Gulbronson said it is estimated that it will cost $700,000 to get water service to the residents of Delaware Avenue.
Hayes said that the residents on Delaware Avenue have been dealing with poor water quality for decades, and emphasized that clean water is a basic human right.
“They’re real issues that we have to deal with. You think we would still be talking about this… in 2016? This has been an issue… We’re not just in this for the fun of it.”
Hayes noted that he felt progress was made on the issue following an October meeting of the Delaware Avenue Association with council representatives Elizabeth Carpenter (who has since resigned) and Presley, along with a representative from Rural Water Works, held between council’s monthly meetings.
“The very next month, after you met with us at Trinity and I spoke to you guys, it was like, your hands were up in the air — nobody had done anything. We were just pushed aside. We’re tired of being pushed.”
Presley said government moves slowly because of restrictions placed on the council from the Freedom of Information Act. If council members want to speak about an issue, they need to call each other individually, rather than meet together.
“An idea that should take five minutes ends up taking five hours,” he said.
Wesley Hayes Sr. said that the residents of Delaware Avenue are not opposed to being annexed into the Town.
“The thing of it is, we want to know what’s going on. If we’re annexed, we want to know up front what it’s going to be — because you want to come up with prices, what it’s going to be. We don’t want to obligate to something we don’t know what we’re obligating to.”
Gulbronson said the only thing the Town would need to authorize to be done is a preliminary engineering report, which would cost approximately $30,000. He added that Delaware Rural Water representatives had said the DRW would be able to pay for the study.
“What that engineering report would do, it would look at Delaware Avenue and give an up-to-date cost for that, any other improvements in town you feel would need to be taken care of, which there are some. We’ve had a request from the trailer park on Honolulu for possible water service, that could be rolled into that, as well,” he explained.
Once the feasibility study was completed, the Town would then submit a laundry list of projects, in order of priority, to the USDA.
“They’re ready to fund your projects tomorrow once we get that in,” said Gulbronson.
“I think it’ a win-win situation for the Town. An opportunity doesn’t come up very often where a town doesn’t have to pay for anything. I think we need to move with it.”
The council did not take a vote on whether they would authorize the feasibility study.