Frankford creeps toward water fix

Yet again, the main topic of discussion around Frankford remained the problems with central water, at the Oct. 3 town council meeting.

Crystal Holland, a regular at council meetings but a rare speaker, broke silence. “We keep hearing about the problems at the water plant — why is it taking so long to get them fixed,” she asked.

As he has in the past, Council President Robert Daisey hinted at legal wrangling behind the scenes. He expressed deep frustration, but said he didn’t know how to expedite the process.

However, Town Clerk Terry Truitt said the town had at least directed Town Solicitor Dennis Schrader to look into what it would take, and how much it would cost, to get the new plant up and running. Who will ultimately pay the costs remains to be seen.

Town resident Greg Welch asked if the town was still wrestling with the same problems — that is, how to backwash and flush the silt-like residue the plant creates as a byproduct of water treatment. Truitt confirmed they were still dealing with the same issue.

“The problem here,” she said, “is that the county never planned to allow us to discharge into their sewer, so we have to come up with alternative means.”

According to council, the new water plant was designed to flush the silt and sediment into county sewer — however, there was apparently a communications breakdown regarding permits and permission, throughout the entire design and construction process.

For instance, there’s some uncertainty as to whether the county would have permitted sewer hookup in any event, even if someone had agreed to upgrade this or that pump station or sewer main. As Truitt pointed out, the county’s regional wastewater treatment plant was never designed to accept chlorinated water.

As Council Vice President Thomas “Maynard” Esender asked, “It begs the question, how did $2 million in taxpayer dollars get spent, with no permits?”

Later in the meeting, Esender also voiced displeasure with the system earlier councils had established for servicing the new plant’s construction debt incurred.

He’s building a new shop space for his woodworking business, and due to the square footage, he will need to install a 2-inch main for fire suppression (sprinklers), and $320 a month toward debt service.

Ideally, he’ll never need the sprinkler system, and Esender said he certainly wouldn’t need the 2-inch main for daily water usage – but he’ll still need to pay the $320 a month toward debt service. However, Council Member Greg Johnson suggested it would be inequitable to give Esender relief, unless the town wanted to start refunding other businesses for the money they’d already paid into debt service.

The town has provided relief to at least one local non-profit, charitable organization, though — the Antioch Church, back in April.

The Office of the State Fire Marshal had required they install a massive 6-inch main for fire suppression, and per the town’s debt service schedule, that would have carried a burdensome $900 a month. Deciding Antioch deserved some recognition, as a council agreed to waive both the debt service and impact fee.

There were other deserving non-profits around town, Truitt pointed out, like the volunteer fire company — but unlike the fire company, the church receives no state funding.

Residential properties do not pay a debt service charge, she noted.

The town originally retained Tidewater Utilities’ Clarence Quillen to operate the new water plant — instead, he’s been patching leaks at the old plant for the past year and a half. Quillen recently completed some major renovations, but has expressed concerns about the tanks themselves — both are rusty, and one has distended a rather large bulge.

Daisey indicated Quillen would likely need to initiate major repairs there before much longer.

“With that said,” Quillen responded, “does the town anticipate going through another winter with what we have? How much money are you going to spend in that plant?”

Daisey suggested they didn’t really have any choice in the matter, with its commitments in fire protection and public schools.

“As far as I’m concerned, this is damages,” Esender stated.

In other business, council welcomed town planner Chris Jakubiak (Jakubiak and Associates, out of Annapolis, Md.) for a brief discussion regarding a master plan for future growth. Frankford hosted planner Kyle Gulbronson (URS) several months ago.

Council is presently working through a Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) update, and taking a cue from rapid development in surrounding communities, is hoping to establish an overview ahead of the curve.

According to Jakubiak, every small town should have a “publicly-adopted vision plan” hanging on a wall in its town hall. Daisey asked if he knew of any grant monies available to help towns pay for such plans, and Jakubiak noted up to $10,000 from Livable Communities (part of Gov. Ruth Ann Minner’s Livable Delaware initiative).

The town would need a match, but it could be in-kind, he said. Alternately, the town could ask or require developers to absorb planning costs, Jakubiak said.

Council also considered a bid for water line installation on McNeal Drive, again haggled over and approved the purchase of a strip of land at Honolulu Road and Shockley Street (over Council Member Jesse Truitt’s objection) and approved Waste Management for dumpster service to and from a town-wide cleanup scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 8.

Waste Management will park the dumpsters at the water plant, under the water tower, Railroad Avenue, from 8 a.m. to noon.