The city council moved a lot closer last week to finalizing the process of connecting homes in at least three subdivisions in north Fort Payne to municipal sewer service lines extended in that direction.
City Attorney Rocky Watson was authorized after the Council came out of executive session to negotiate with local businessman Nick Jones, according to Council President Walter Watson.
“It has always been in the best interest of the citizens in that area that we as a city do our best to make sure that system works properly. This has been an ongoing discussion for several years and I’m glad to finally see some light at the end of the tunnel,” said Mayor Brian Baine.
When reached for comment, Jones said the landowner, David Groat, signed a contract that gave a company he is affiliated with an option to purchase property in the Terrapin Hills subdivision, along with the system.
“The City approached me about buying those contractual rights and we ultimately agreed on a price,” Jones said.
It was unclear what rights the private company would have to control access to the 10 acres in question, so the City needed to clear up any ambiguity before integrating those sewer lines into the public infrastructure. Watson said a figure of $25,000 was finalized while ironing out details to clear the way for the city to ultimately bypass the lagoon. Extension of the service line continues from a pump station on 49th Street North (near the city’s new intermediate school) to the swerve near the bridge crossing Big Wills Creek on Greenhill Blvd NW commonly referred to as “Dead Man’s Curve.”
At the request of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM), the city has used a portable pump to clear the Terrapin Hills system. The state agency took system owner Groat to court in 2014 after an inspection of the system’s lagoon revealed untreated sewage appearing to flow from a PVC pipe into Big Wills Creek. Connecting onto the public system would alleviate the need for pump stations and stabilize the failing, privately-owned system.
In 2017, after a pump motor temporarily failed and the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) warned the public to avoid waters in Big Wills Creek due to the DeKalb County Health Department detecting levels of E. coli bacteria, the Council reportedly spent nearly $400,000 for engineering studies to determine what it would take to resolve such problems.
Fort Payne has three distinct sewer projects in the works, collectively linking from the Terrapin Hills area southward to the pump station on Airport Road to another station near the WZOB radio station. An additional $4 million will likely be sourced from issuing bonds to complete all three phases for one connected sewer system running the length of the city, according to City officials.