Campbellsburg sewer, annexation face new problem

-A A +A
By Jonna Spelbring Priester

General Manager

A Campbellsburg property owner warned the Campbellsburg City Council Monday night that they were “putting the cart before the horse.”

The cart is a move to annex property north of I-71 into the city limits, and the horse is completion of a utility bore under the interstate that would pave the way for sewer access to businesses that could be annexed.

Mike Frazier, one of several property owners, indicated that putting the cart before the horse could affect how the owners vote.

His comments came after a nearly hour long discussion about the city’s sewer system and a vote by the council to approve the second reading of its annexation ordinance.

Carrollton Utilities General Manager Bill Osborne told the council Monday night the system has several problems, which could be costly to fix. Among those are three pump stations that must be upgraded or replaced. Osborne said that one pump station was “way under-designed” for the flow it was processing and needs to be addressed immediately, and two others had controls that were outdated.

Additionally, he said that the system has been experiencing infiltration, or leaks. Osborne said that infiltration also has overloaded some pump stations.

“It has caused untreated waste water to be released to the environment,” he said, adding that the Division of Waste Water has issued notices of violation to CU. “We had really hoped the problem had been fixed because we know you spent a lot of money trying to fix that.

Further, he said, CU would continue smoke and television testing of the lines. The smoke testing will help identify where leaks are, while the television testing can reveal why the leaks exist by taking a look from inside sewer lines.

When CU conducted smoke testing in the spring, the agency found a cable line trenched through a main sewer line, as well as a utility pole driven through another main.

It all amounts to an environmental situation Osborne said the city could not overlook.

“With the small customer base you have here, with the rates you have, it is a significant concern,” he said. “We don’t want to see rates go up again. That would be a last resort.”

Osborne recommended the city use its surplus project funding to make the repairs, which could result in an uncomfortable decision for the city. The city council already voted last year to pursue a variety of expansion projects with the surplus funding, including a line on Citation Drive, as well as a line on Franklin Avenue, and a bore under I-71 which could pave the way for sewer access on the north side of the interstate.

“From what we’ve learned ee you need to fix those things in the system you serve right now before you go out and extend to other areas,” Osborne said. “Division of Water? They expect these things to be fixed.”

But that excess funding, approximately $700,000 might not be enough to fix all of the problems CU has encountered since taking over the system’s operation in June 2007. Renn Willingham of Tetra Tech, the engineering firm that has designed the sewer project for Campbellsburg, said that the surplus money would not address the entire problem.

That funding became available after bids for Phase I of the project came in lower than expected. In the interest of economic development, the council voted to spend that funding on projects that would expand the system and prime the city for future development.

Council member Jan Fletcher expressed frustration, stating that he thought the city had everything in order, though a few repairs were needed.

Roger O’Nan said the amount of clay tile in the city’s sewer system likely has contributed to the problem and that CU would “have to tear out the clay tile and put in plastic pipe,” which Osborne said wouldn’t be cheap.

“We didn’t know all this was going to come back and bite us,” O’Nan said. “I’ve been here almost 15 years and we’ve been fooling with sewer. I thought we were getting into pretty good shape ee but now? Here we are again.”

Willingham then told the council that an encroachment permit for the interstate bore had been signed and would be sent to the highway department soon.

Council member Jason Stanley voiced concern about setting up an interstate bore before property owners north of the interstate had a chance to vote on that issue. He was for the bore, he said, but “if the (annexation vote) fails and doesn’t go through, that’s a waste of the city’s money.”

For the council, annexing that property has become a concern as they consider future development. For some city officials, the issue comes down to a matter of keeping promises.

“What I think, and I hope this is good thinking, is that we do take care of what we need to do in the city limits,” Mayor Carl Rucker said. “If the funds are available, then we proceed as we have told the people on the other side of the interstate we would do.

“I would hate to be a man that’s not a man of his word.”

Henry County Judge Executive John Logan Brent said it appeared there had been a disconnect over the last year, as the city didn’t have a certified sewer person of its own to help facilitate discussions.

But he too expressed concern about broken promises. “We’ve told a lot of people about the bore, it’s been voted on,” he said, noting that Representative Rick Rand also has discussed the bore with businesses.

“Maybe we put the cart before the horse, but I’m very concerned,” Brent said. “We told people things that were decided upon seven to eight months ago.” But his concern doesn’t end there – with repairs to the system looming, “where does it end?”

Brent said he wanted to make the council aware of the sacrifices that were made to bring millions in funding to the city for its sewer project.

Finally, the council voted to allow Osborne and Tetra Tech to work together to figure out just what problems exist with the system, and then bring those problems before the council. The motion, and successful vote, also will allow officials to proceed with legal footwork to make the bore happen.

After that, the council voted unanimously to approve the second reading of its annexation ordinance. Frazier said that property owners, including himself, would be less likely to vote for annexation if the city cannot tell them whether or not the bore will actually happen.

“We thought it was a done deal, and now we find out that it isn’t,” he said.

E-mail us about this article at editor@hclocal.com.