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SUNDAY, DECEMBER 17, 2006
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Divided about sewer in Flint
Funding for installation up to Decatur council, utility board

By Chris Paschenko
chris@decaturdaily.com· 340-2442

Division among Decatur neighbors in the Flint community runs along sewer lines.

The low-lying area near Flint Creek contains clay soil that retains water, which upsets residents’ noses during septic-tank failures.

Fred Vengrouskie, a supervisor with the Morgan County Health Department, said Flint has the largest concentration of homes in the county with failing septic tanks.

On Monday, the City Council could approve its portion of a $157,394 project to bring sewer to South Hamaker Street. The city struck a deal with 17 residents there to fund a third of the cost.

Decatur Utilities will meet Wednesday to decide whether to match the remaining two-thirds of the cost with the 17 residents, who spent $3,279.06 per lot on the project.

But not all of the residents decided to participate. Those who told The Decatur Daily they weren’t interested asked to remain anonymous. They said they didn’t have septic-tank failures and couldn’t justify spending the money.

Legally, any resident who didn’t fund the project can connect to the system once it’s installed for a $500 tap fee.

Despite Councilman Gary Hammon’s best efforts, he was unable to obtain federal grants during the 2007 fiscal year to fund the project. He said he’s still trying for FY 2008.

Alan Stover, the grants administrator for the city, said residents there didn’t qualify for community development funds because their average income rose above the low to moderate range mandated by the federal government for grant qualification.

A study in 2002 identified problem sewage areas in Flint, and Hammon said he has a gentlemen’s agreement with other council members to allocate $50,000 per year to future projects until the stinking problem is rectified.

“We had North Hamaker first,” Hammon said. “But that fell through. We’ll have people say they’re interested, but invariably a few drop out. Consequently, the cost per person goes up.”

Amanda Hunt is building a home on North Hamaker Street. She said extending sewer to her home would be cost prohibitive.

“Once we’ve installed a septic tank, I don’t want to turn around and connect to sewer,” she said. “I can’t wait to see if we’re going to get sewer.”

Allan Jones, who lives on South Hamaker, participated in the project even though he said he hasn’t experienced septic-tank failure in the two years he and his family have lived on the property.

“But I’ve talked with people in the neighborhood, and a lot have,” Jones said. “We wanted sewer in case we ever had a problem.”

City Engineer Mark Petersohn said construction would begin in early February, pending approval from the council and utilities board.

“The construction could take 60 to 75 days,” Petersohn said.

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