Frankford water woes continue: "terrible"

Frankford Town Council reported less than stellar service from the town’s venerable water plant and pressure from a private utility at the Aug. 1 council meeting.

When Council President Robert Daisey asked Council Member Jesse Truitt for his report on water, Truitt pulled no punches — “It’s terrible,” he said.

Water quality remained standard in certain sections of town, but according to Truitt, there was so much rust in it elsewhere that people were seriously disinclined to drink it.

Town Clerk Terry Truitt said a rust film had appeared within 24 hours, staining appliances and toilets and ruining clothing.

As Council Vice-President Thomas Maynard Esender defended, everyone was aware there were ongoing water problems around town, and council was not sitting idly by.

Daisey said the town was indeed exploring different options in pursuit of a long-delayed startup at the brand new water plant waiting in the wings.

“We’re taking a more aggressive approach to getting that plant completed,” Daisey said, hinting at possible litigation.

Meanwhile, Terry Truitt reported that private water utility Artesian was knocking at the door, surveying county residents just outside town borders. “This can be a problem down the line, because those property owners might not be so enticed (to hook into town services),” she said.

Planner Kyle Gulbronson (URS Consultants), in attendance primarily to introduce himself and let the town know URS had established a local office, agreed that if Artesian successfully documents interest, they could obtain an exclusive Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN).

“That cuts the town out of the water business,” Gulbronson said.

“It wouldn’t be a problem if they had an existing plant, but they’re doing this to build a new one,” Terry Truitt said. She said the town could conceivably buy a private utility’s CPCN — “but it’s going to cost you dearly to do it,” she added.

Esender characterized a widespread move from public to private utilities as a national phenomenon — first electric generation, now water — and he noted a recent development in federal subsidies for private construction of toll roads.

Daisey redirected to Gulbronson, asking him if he had any experience in tracking down grant money. Gulbronson said he was more of a planner, and the engineers who dealt with projects, like water, would likely be more familiar with grant funding.

He said he had worked with Office of State Planning Coordination’s (OSPC’s) Ann Marie Townshend for several years, though, and was familiar with most state funds (transportation enhancement funds, for instance).

“The climate we’re in now, developers are paying for a lot of improvements,” he said.

Daisey said they’d realized little in the way of developer-funded improvements, because much of Frankford land within municipal boundaries lay under “old ownership,” and the long-timers weren’t selling.

And the OSPC didn’t see a need for Frankford to expand through annexations if the town couldn’t develop its internal lands first, so the county was unlikely to allot any more sewer than the limited capacity already on the books, Daisey continued.

“Water could be your commodity,” Gulbronson agreed. “And so the issue Terry brought up should be of great concern.”

In other business, council returned once again to dilapidated houses, and Fire Hazard Inspection Committee Member Elma Gray said she’d narrowed her long list to six locations the committee had agreed should take top priority.

However, Reed Street resident Jerry Smith noted two burned-out houses that hadn’t made that list. He received assurances those locations had leapfrogged into a position of foremost importance.

Smith returned to the issue of a poorly-maintained town right-of-way near his house, an issue he’d broached at the previous month’s council meeting.

At that time, council noted various obstacles (trash proliferation, ditch too steep for the town’s grass-cutting equipment). However, Smith said the problem had persisted for some time. “I just want the council to look at this seriously, and stop pushing it aside,” he said.

Council scheduled public hearings for Dean Esham’s project on Reed Street (change of zone for four duplexes) and Charles Adams’ request for subdivision (Frankford Avenue), unanimously voted to renew a contract with auditors Jefferson, Urian, Doane & Sterner and voted 3-1 (Council Member Truitt opposing) to accept Viola Shockley’s bequest of a strip of land at the corner of Honolulu Road and Shockley Street.

Truitt suspected it would turn into nothing more than another area where the town would have to cut the grass, but Esender expressed reluctance to turn down free land and Council Member Greg Johnson said it might be a nice location for a bus shelter.

Finally, Council Member Pam Davis reminded everyone of a meeting to discuss neighborhood watch possibilities, scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 9, at 7 p.m., at the Frankford Fire Hall.