Smithfield is moving forward with a grant application to fix its water intake on the Neuse River.
The town is seeking a $2.7 million N.C. Small Cities Community Development Block Grant. The Town Council voted last week to move forward with the application.
Last year, then-Public Utilities director Earl Botkin told the council that sand entering through the intake system was corroding piping and settling at the bottom of the town’s reservoir. The sand reduces the reservoir’s capacity and is costly to remove.
To find a solution, Smithfield hired The Wooten Company, which suggested building a second intake about 100 feet upstream with screens to keep out sand. Wooten, which received $60,000 for its work, also recommended seeking a grant to pay for the project.
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Currently, the town is spending about $150,000 a year to remove sand from the reservoir. The town will use that money as its match if it wins the state grant.
The application is competitive, said Ken Griffin, public utilities director. To make Smithfield’s application more favorable, the Town Council approved a five-year plan of capital projects. Before, the town looked just three years ahead.
The capital projects aren’t set in stone, Griffin said, but are a guide to deciding what to spend money on and when. “This exercise is a good exercise,” he said. “It forced me to put in the paper some things I was thinking about.”
Councilman Emery Ashley agreed. “This is a great idea,” he said. “We’ve sort of been looking at this for some time. We need this type of thing for planning so we know what we’re going to be facing.”
In the next five years, the plan outlines $2.7 million in improvements to the sewer system, $1.5 million in the electric department and $640,000 in the water department.
Pay raise scandal
Councilman Ashley said he hopes to have the pay-raise scandal behind Smithfield by Thanksgiving. He is giving a monthly update on the matter.
Smithfield will soon enter into mediation with former town manager Eric Williams, who is suing the town. The case could still go to trial if mediation is unsuccessful.
“Not everyone is happy, but they’ll be happy with the process of what this council has done to address this,” Ashley said.
Town Manager Paul Sabiston said he is reviewing each of Smithfield’s departments, looking for ways to make them more efficient. He will give the council updates on his reviews and hopes to finish by the end of the year.
Fire Chief Patrick Harris asked for permission to pay his part-time fire inspectors more – $22.92 an hour instead of $18.12. He said he was losing experienced fire inspectors because the town was paying only the minimum hourly rate for the job. The council approved his request; the town has two part-time inspectors.
The council re-zoned land at South Fifth Street and South Bright Leaf Boulevard for a used-car lot. The applicant was Olivia Holding.