Council approves sewer upgrade

Aug. 19, 2013 @ 09:32 PM

City officials took another step Monday to upgrade the city’s aging wastewater system, the cause of more than 100 spills in recent years and the target of a possible lawsuit.
Last month, Thomasville City Council approved loans and spending for water and sewer upgrade projects totaling $6 million.  On Monday, the board approved unanimously acceptance of a 20-year state loan for $730,000 for an upgrade of the East Davidson Pump Station. The total price for the project is estimated at $1.3 million. Council also approved the city’s share of the project.
The pump station on Old Emmanuel Church Road experiences overflows because aging equipment can’t handle heavy rains. In the past three years, the city moved to get state and federal loans to help fix and renovate outdated sewer lines and pump stations.
Here are the other projects approved so far:
• The North Hamby Creek sewer line from Baptist Children’s Home Road to Carmalt Street will be repaired or replaced: $3.6 million.
• North Side Pump Station at West Cooksey Drive  will get an upgrade for electrical system and pump controls and motors: $800,000
• Replacement of the clearwell roof at the water treatment plant: $1.3 million.
• Replacing a water service pump: $220,000.
The latest hurdle for the city is a warning from the Yadkin Riverkeeper about a possible lawsuit for not moving fast enough to prevent wastewater spills. Since 2009, more than 4.29 million gallons of wastewater have spilled into local waterways, according the group’s research. Southern Environmental Law Center gave notice last month to the city of Thomasville for violations of the federal Clean Water Act for repeatedly discharging untreated sewage into waterways in the Yadkin River Basin. The law center will file a lawsuit in about 30 days unless the violations are addressed.
Council also approved a $25,000 legal services contract to handle possible lawsuits at the request of the city attorney.
“We’d like to spend this money on infrastructure, but we have to do this with outside council,” said City Manager Kelly Craver.
In other business:
• Council denied unanimously a rezoning for a property on Johnsontown Road for Johnsontown Station for highway commercial use as a convenience store.
Owners said they needed the change for an upgrade with a possible cafe. Uses also include indoor recreation, including Internet cafe operations, said Barney Hill, who regularly attends council sessions.  He argued for approval. The case came to council on appeal from the planning and zoning board.
While neighbors focused on safety in a public hearing, council member Pat Shelton offered a motion to deny rezoning based on the code specifications.
“This street is no longer a main highway that allows the new zoning,” she said.
Of those opposed, Bobby Edwards, a neighbor, said a change would open up too many uses neighbors would not like and more traffic.
“We have too much traffic now,” Edwards said.
“I don’t like this change,” said neighbor John Norton. “I do not want to see it or hear it.”
Roger Singletary said he feared electronic gambling if allowed at the business in an Internet cafe would destroy the lives of people.
“I have seen this too many times where people wrote illegal checks to get money for electronic gambling,” he said. “It has destroyed lives.”
Sam Reagan, a law enforcement officer, said electronic gambling brings in so much cash that criminals target the businesses for robberies.
“There are other uses for this business to have,” Reagan said. “I’m worried about the safety of my neighborhood. There are other places where they could go.”
• Council unanimously approved a $12,470 justice assistance grant for the police department for technology upgrades to prevent Internet crimes against children and for upgrades in patrol cars.  888-3626

In 2009, Thomasville’s largest wastewater spill sent 15.9 million gallons of wastewater into North Hamby Creek, Abbotts Creek and eventually High Rock Lake. The city completed repairs to the Baptist Children’s Home Collector Line, the site of the largest spill, in 2009.  The state Division of Water Quality has assessed Thomasville fines of at least $141,000 for discharges.