Sewer system’s upgrade wraps up
WEST FORK — The city is close to wrapping up a sewer infrastructure upgrade that is a crucial step to receive sewer service from Fayetteville.
West Fork has received water from Fayetteville for more than 40 years, and is now close in obtaining sewer services.
Mayor Heith Caudle said the city’s sewer system was established in the early 1970s when EPA requirements were not as strict. The sewer system was located in a floodplain and over the past 50 years the system has become obsolete, he said.
“We’re basically at capacity,” Caudle said. “We don’t have a lot of capacity left if our population were to increase.”
The city’s population was estimated at 2,550 in 2016 and 2,317 in 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
“We are definitely having steady growth; not fast growth but steady growth in housing,” said Kristie Drymon, the city’s finance director and treasurer.
The city has installed new sewer infrastructure for the past eight months in preparation of the transition. Work is being done in the Northwood, Southwood and Westwood streets area, with lines being connected to homes and then tested. That work will wrap up by the end of this month, Caudle said.
“We had to dig up the streets to place the new sewer line through the neighborhood, so the streets were a disaster,” Caudle said.
Street repairs will follow once the upgrades are done.
“Originally, the plan was to come back and pour concrete over all the places the roads had been cut, but the roads would have looked like a zipper because all of the cuts back and forth,” Caudle said. “But we worked it out with the contractor who was doing the sewer project, and instead of doing the concrete patch, they’re going to do an asphalt overlay of the entire street, so it’s going to be like a brand new street.”
Road repaving should be completed by the end of August, Caudle said.
The infrastructure improvements cost about $2 million. Actually tying the system into Fayetteville will cost $6 million to $8 million, Caudle said.
A 12-inch transmission force main will connect West Fork to Fayetteville’s sewer treatment system, said Tim Nyander, Fayetteville Water Utilities director.
“We’ll start that project when they’re complete with their sewer rehabilitation that they’re doing right now,” Nyander said.
Easements will have to be obtained and a lift station built to facilitate the connection, Nyander said.
The cost of the infrastructure improvement was funded by a bond issue that was approved on June 14, 2016, and issued on Aug. 19, 2016, Drymon said.
The city will reimburse the state’s Department of Finance and Administration for the bond through water and sewer revenues, Drymon said.
An additional bond will have to be obtained to pay for the cost to connect West Fork to Fayetteville. That bond, if passed, will be paid back through sewer revenues, Drymon said.
Sewer bills for West Fork residents will go up.
“There’s no doubt about that to pay this bond,” Caudle said. “We cannot determine how those rates will be affected. The state has told us to expect a rate increase, but we don’t know how much yet.”
Households receive a water and sewer bill in which the sewer cost mirrors the water cost, Caudle said.
The average West Fork water and sewer bill ranges from $55 to $60, Drymon said.
Sewer bills have not gone up yet, Caudle said.
“We would like to increase the bill in steps instead of one jump at the end of the project,” he said.
Tinker Barlow, an eightyear West Fork resident, said he is against an increase and that the sewer system seems to be working fine as it is.
“My water is already too high,” Barlow said. “It’s way more than what I want to pay.”
City leaders hope to receive some forgivable bonds due the average low household income, Drymon said. West Fork’s median household income is $44,006, according to the Census website. The state’s median household income was $41,371, according to 2015 Census data.
Forgivable bonds will lessen the sewer bill increase for residents.
“Anything we don’t have to pay back will help in what our rates have to be,” Drymon said.