Budget adoption, fluoride, loan forgiveness loom in Frankford

FRANKFORD — Town of Frankford’s budget balancing act is ready for adoption.

Town council plans to consider adoption of its upcoming fiscal year budget at its regular monthly meeting on Monday, July 10. A second public budget hearing was held June 20.

“We got that all wrapped up and we’ll voting at the meeting in July,” said councilman Marty Presley, council’s treasurer liaison. “It is going to balanced; we are having to use approximately $11,000 from last year’s surplus. We are using that as a carryover.”

The budget up for adoption is in the $600,000 range, Mr. Presley said.

Water usage is the town’s biggest revenue source, projected at about $175,000. Property taxes are projected at $112,000 in anticipated revenue. The town’s water system is the largest expense.

It is council’s intention to refrain from any tax or rate increases for property owners and water users.

“We’re hoping to keep the water rates and taxes and everything the same,” said Mr. Presley.

In another important town matter, council plans to hold a first reading on a town ordinance related to proposed state legislation regarding well permits.

House Bill 38 would amend Delaware Code and give municipalities authority to sign off on well permits. This legislation was spurred by the town of Frankford’s actions stemming from DNREC’s issuance of a permit allowing Mountaire Farms to drill a new well to support large-volume water needs for its feed mill plant in Frankford town limits. The town was not involved in the permit-granting process, due to a change in the law in 2001 that removed municipal governments from having approval authority over non-­potable wells.

“It amends Title 7 to give municipalities the authority back to sign off on well permits,” said Mr. Presley.

HB 38 has passed the House of Representatives. Last week it was in the senate environmental committee.

The bill places the same requirements for the issuance of non-potable well permits within existing areas where a water utility has been granted a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity as those that currently apply to the issuance of a potable well permit.

Mr. Presley anticipates the bill will pass and be signed by the governor. The town must do its part.

“In order for us to be in compliance with the law we need to have our own ordinance governing that, so we’re going to have the first reading on that in July,” said Mr. Presley.

Mountaire’s new well went into operation in January 2016. In the spring of 2016 town officials noticed a significant drop in its first-quarter water consumption; Mountaire historically had been the town’s biggest water customer, accounting for approximately a third of the town’s water usage.

The town estimated that water revenue loss at about $70,000 annually.

Mountaire, in its defense, said the new well was needed because the town’s system lacked high volume and pressure required for Mountaire’s chicken feed operation.

In August 2016, the town challenged the validity of DNREC’s approval in granting Mountaire the well permit with an appeal to the Delaware Environmental Appeals Board.

In February 2017, the town council backed off on its appeal with 4-1 council approval to accept DNREC’s loan-forgiveness proposal that at the time totaled about a half million dollars. In return, the town had to complete a feasibility study as well as installation of fluoride in the town’s water system. After three months of continuous fluoridation, DNREC will considering writing off the loans the town obtained for its water plant and water system.

“We’ve gotten the first feasibility study completed. We’re about halfway through on the second feasibility study,” said Mr. Presley. “We’re looking at getting the fluoride installed on the water plant in the next four weeks, which will enable us to start that clocking ticking for having to meet the three-month consecutive fluoride to get the loan forgiven.”

The town recently made a loan payment. “I think we are down to around $425,000. It is actually two loans there but it totals about $425,000,” Mr. Presley said.

Park parking lot paving

Paving of the parking lot at Frankford Community Park is expected to occur within the next month – hopefully.

“We have been hearing that for six months,” said Mr. Presley. “I thought we had it wrapped up last September. Realistically, I can’t see any reason why it won’t be done within a month. But who knows?”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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