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Council, Residents Discuss Sewer Woes

By Staff | May 17, 2017

Troubles with the town’s sewage system was the main topic of discussion at Pine Grove’s regular, monthly council meeting, held Tuesday, May 9.

Patty and Dennis McCardle approached council to discuss sewage problems they have been experiencing at their residence. Dennis asked for an update on one of the sewer plant’s pumps, as to whether it was fixed. Dennis said while the town was experiencing problems with one of its pumps, his family was waking up at night to the smell of sewer gas. He said they felt their eyes burning as well.

“We don’t want to go through that again,” he said, inquiring as to whether or not the town had a backup pump.

Dennis said his family had to debate on whether or not to do laundry, or to even take a shower. He said the stress of the situation took its toll.

In other sewer-related matters, resident Richard Price said he had to call a plumber, who had to run a snake tool from underneath his basement, to the town’s system.

“When my neighbor flushed his toilet, it would backflow in my basement,” Price said.

Price said the cost of the plumber was $200 for the initial call, and $87 for each additional hour.

Mayor Roy Justice said though Price and his (Price’s) neighbor use the same pit, sewage “shouldn’t be flowing back into the basement.”

Price said he has three inches of dried up sewage in his basement.

“We’ve put lime on it, and my sewage is still backed up,” Price said. “it isn’t backing up in the basement, because I paid out, out of my pocket, to install an extra trap.”

“That isn’t my responsibility, but I don’t want sewage in my house,” Price said.

Price argued about having to pay the full amount on his sewer bill.”We are now up to four inches of sewage, and I’m going through lime. It’s only $5 for a 45 pound bag, but the sewage will have to come out of my basement.”

Price said the plumber is writing a letter, stating that “it was the septic system’s fault.”

Pine Grove’s attorney, Gary Rymer, said the town was doing its best to keep the sewer system operating. However, he noted that just because the system may not be functioning, it does not give residents the right to not make payment.

“If you don’t pay your bill, the town will shut off your water,” he said.

“So as citizens, we have to pay if you guys mess up?” Price retorted.

“We did not mess up,” Rymer noted, stating that the old sewage system has design problems. Rymer also noted that he opposed the vacuum system when it was built.

“It was high tech stuff. We just didnt have the people to operate it. People didn’t understand it. The system is high maintenance.”

The new system, currently being installed, is a gravity system.

Attorney Rymer explained that Price is under the town’s older sewer system, the vacuum system.

“There is a pit, and when the level raises to a certain point, the valve kicks on the vacuum pump and sucks it in the main system. This is assuming the vacuum is working at the time. It is supposed to empty the pit.”

However, “the problem they are having with the vacuum system, is everything has to be air tight.”

Rymer said it is the responsibility of the land owner to get the sewage to the pit.

As to the new system being installed, Justice reported that the workers are working 10 hours or more a day to complete the current phase. The phase is 75 percent completed. The project is expected to be completed by mid to late summer.

Also, council discussed a possible spending freeze.

Council member Barbara King noted some future expenditures for the town, for instance, the upcoming election.

“We would like to see that all unnecessary spending is frozen,” King suggested. “We want to make sure we have enough money to pay the bills.”

Council did vote in favor of purchasing two new tires for the town’s Dodge pickup truck, along with an alignment. King said she would make a motion for the purchase, as the purchase deals with safety.

During its meeting, council also stressed the need of requiring purchase orders.

In another matter, King and Council member Cindy Figler announced that they had completed the town’s employee handbook. “Everything is in it that we’ve discussed at the meetings,” King said, nothing that employees have to sign that they will abide by the book. “it says that they will follow the rules we have down, and wear safety equipment, and if not, it could be reasons for dismissal.”

The book also deals with overtime, stolen property, destruction of property, drug usage, carrying firearms, and more.

The book also states that employees will have to turn in their personal cell phones to City Recorder Rhonda Spencer, prior to working their shift. Personal phones would be returned at the end of the day.

It was noted that this rule was made due to citizens complaining that town workers were texting while “hanging off the garbage truck.”

In another matter, Justice brought up the issue of the sewage pumps, that Dennis McCardle had mentioned. Justice said the gentleman that rebuilt one of the town’s pumps had provided him (the mayor) with literature on bradn new pumps.

“We are probably going to need two of those as soon as we can get them, because one will be a backup for either pit.”

It was noted that the sewer board would discuss the matter first.

City Recorder Spencer noted that the lower level of the Byrd Center had been set up as an office for a sheriff’s deputy. She said the room was painted and ceiling tile was put in, along with a desk installed. The town is just waiting for proper installation of the phone line.

The meeting’s agenda did mention pay raises for elected officials, but council decided against discussing the matter. King said she was only bringing up the matter due to the fact that council was required to discuss it before the new council members take office, after the election.

Figler inquired as to whether or not the town can hire a new “sewage guy.”

It was noted that the town currently employees Jeff Watson, who is under a five-year contract.

King inquired, to Rymer, how the town can offer a five-year contract, if council members have two-year contracts.

Rymer said that, so far, “the auditor hasn’t griped about it, and it is hard to get any Class II sewer guy to come to Pine Grove.”

It was also noted that the town needs a Class II operator to run the water plant.

In building and grounds matters, Justice said the town’s lawn mowers are repaired and “both are working as of today.”

Justice also noted that one of the new lights, located behind the Byrd Center, is “burned out,” and King also recommended that the town’s decorative flags need changed for spring.

In maintenance matters, Justice said the town is still discovering items that “disappeared.”

“The chainsaw has grown legs,” he noted. “I just bought it in the fall,” he said of the missing tool.

King said she asked for an inventory, of all the town’s equipment, in January 2016.

“It’s never been done yet,” she added, noting that if people know there is an inventory, they would be less likely to steal things.

John Hurst, King, and Figler were the council members present at the recent meeting of Pine Grove council.