Oak Grove sewer board seeks advice about treatment plant
by Mark Ledbetter
OAK GROVE – Meeting with the Oak Grove Sewer Board during their regular meeting Wednesday, Reginald Harris fielded several questions from the board about planning for a sewer treatment plant in the town.

Harris represented Hethcoat and Davis, Inc. and works out of the Birmingham office.

“We have eight engineers and we have the experience and the expertise,” Harris said.

Councilman and Sewer Board liaison David Harris said the board was at a loss regarding the next step in establishing a treatment plant and needed some direction and guidance.

Hethcoat and Davis’ Harris shared with the board several ideas and addressed obtaining grants, smoke tests and other issues the board will face.

Harris said there are different government agencies that provide grants and loans to fund any plant project the board may decide to build.

Some of the grants are matching fund grants. Community Block Development Grants usually require a portion of the total cost to be paid by the town or city.

Grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture may include a percentage of the project as a grant and then provide a long-term loan with low interest rates.

Harris also suggested that the board have someone conduct a “TV” inspection to help determine the exact damage the system may have at locations indicated by recent smoke tests.

Councilman Harris said they wouldn’t need Hethcoat and Davis’s services if the Sylacauga Utility Board had worked with the town.

Harris said the issue Oak Grove has had with the Sylacauga Utility Board is the rate they charge for processing sewage from town’s residents on the Sylacauga system.

Harris said the town of Oak Grove was being charged the same rates as individuals and said he felt it was unfair for the Sylacauga board to do so.

He said Sylacauga residents are charged a rate that includes any maintenance costs incurred by the board. Harris said, on the other hand, Oak Grove is charged the same rate, but the town has to absorb maintenance costs.

Oak Grove board member Rick Morgan said the town has absorbed the costs of maintenance rather than pass the expense on to local residents. He said the only way they could recoup the expenses was to pass the expense to residents, but he didn’t want to do that.

David Harris said repairs to both pumps servicing the sewage system would cost the town $8,000, something the Sylacauga board would have had to absorb if they were being treated fairly.

Board Chairman Barney Brown said he would like to have the meters Sylacauga has in place tested to make sure they are reading properly. Reginald Harris said the Utility Board should have them calibrated annually and submit a report to Oak Grove.

When Harris asked if Oak Grove had a contract with Sylacauga, Special Projects Coordinator Corene Lackey said the town hasn’t had a contract in some time.

Without a contract, David Harris said the town of Oak Grove was at a huge disadvantage.

The Oak Grove board also discussed the issue of those on the system that are not paying their bill. Lackey said up to 15 percent of customers receiving service are not paying their bill.

© 2013