Artesian offers $3.6 million for Frankford water plant

Frankford residents heard details about a proposal from Artesian Water Co. to take over its troubled water system at a meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 8.

The water company, which is in the process of building a water treatment plant just outside Frankford town limits, on Armory Road, has proposed purchasing the Town’s water plant and connecting its existing water system into Artesian’s existing network.

According to the proposal, Artesian would purchase Frankford’s existing plant, water tower and infrastructure for $3.6 million. In addition, the company would invest an estimated $6 million in regional water mains needed to connect the Town’s 320 water customers to its existing network.

Artesian would spend another $1 million over the next five years upgrading Frankford’s existing water mains and would invest $70,000 in upgrading the communications system at the Frankford water treatment plant. The company would also replace all of Frankford’s water meters, at a cost of approximately $500,000.

Water rates for Frankford residents would remain the same for one year, according to Artesian’s proposal. They would probably then decrease, overall, Council Vice President Greg Welch said. He added that some customers might see an increase in rates.

Three Artesian officials attended the Jan. 8 meeting to discuss the proposal with Frankford’s town council and to take questions from residents.

Anyone who wasn’t there will have more chances to hear what Artesian is proposing, because the Town has scheduled more public meetings in the coming days regarding the company’s proposal.

A meeting was scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 16, at 3 p.m., to which all businesses that are customers of the Frankford water system were invited. Another meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 21 at 6 p.m. in the town hall, will offer all Frankford residents another chance to hear the details of the Artesian proposal and ask questions.

A third meeting was tentatively scheduled for Friday, Jan. 22. As of the Coastal Point’s press time on Jan. 15, Town Clerk Cheryl Lynch said that that meeting may or may not be held. If needed, it will be posted on Frankford’s website, at www.frankford.delaware.gov.

The Artesian proposal is also posted on the Town’s website.

The Artesian officials at the Jan. 8 meeting attempted to reassure the council and residents that the company is looking at the purchase as a long-term investment and believe it would be a beneficial move for the Town.

“When we come into a town, we make a commitment,” said David Spacht, Artesian’s chief financial officer and treasurer. In response to concerns about how the company would respond to any service issues, Spacht said Frankford customers would have access to Artesian’s dispatchers 24 hours a day.

John Thaeder, Artesian’s vice president for operations, said that during the transition period, Frankford water customers might be without water for half a day at the most.

Thaeder said one of the first things Artesian would do would be an analysis of individual customers’ water to pinpoint any problem areas in the system. He said many of Frankford’s water mains are 50 to 60 years old and are reaching the end of their “useful life.”

Of the known issues some customers have already expressed, Spacht said, “There’s a reason why they’re getting brown water; we just don’t know what it is, yet.”

Thaeder said that, even if water-quality issues are not a safety issue, they will be addressed.

“Color, odor, taste is a huge issue,” he said. “It’s unacceptable” under Artesian’s commitment to customers, he said.

Artesian was the only company to respond to Frankford’s request for proposals (RFP) to take over the plant.

“We think it was a generous proposal,” Spacht said.

Town Council President Joanne Bacon has encouraged all residents and business owners to attend one of the upcoming meetings.

By Kerin Magill
Staff Reporter