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Sewer line solutions

PRINCETON — The Princeton City Council continues to address sanitary sewer issues facing the city and what can be done, and when, to correct those issues.

At this week's council meeting, Princeton City Manager Jeff Clawson said the Farnsworth Group expects to have its drainage study report ready for the council's Aug. 19 meeting. The council had hired the engineering firm in May to evaluate the city's sanitary and storm sewer issues, as well as the flooding issues in the Dover Road/Euclid Avenue area and the Greencroft/Metro Center area.

Commissioner Joel Quiram said he's glad the city is moving forward with the study, but thought it should be expanded to other areas of town like South Church Street, which he said is in terrible condition. Princeton has had nine sanitary sewer collapses since the first of the year, with seven of those collapses happening since the April heavy rains and flooding, he said.

Quiram recommended the city start scoping all the sanitary sewers to identify and categorize them from worst to best and then put dollar amounts on fixing the worst problems first.

"Our sanitary sewer is this city's far and away No. 1 challenge moving forward, especially for future growth," Quiram said.

Mayor Keith Cain agreed that more needs to be done with the city's sanitary sewer system, but he said every council has tried to do some upgrades for the past 40 years — from sewer lines, to the new storage lagoon, to updating the wastewater treatment plant.

Part of the problem has been state legislators, in the past, did not want to give money for underground services, but rather for projects that could be seen by the voters like street work, Cain said. That had nothing to do with previous councils' efforts, he said.

As the city has grown, the sanitary sewer systems lines in those areas are new, but they are hooked to the old system which goes to the wastewater treatment plant, Cain said, adding some of the old systems just can't handle what's being dumped into them. He also said there can be some runoff and drainage concerns from neighboring farm fields.

In his comments, Commissioner Bob Warren said he's been on the council since 1999, and the city has spent $100,000 each year on its sewer collection system and plant, which amounts to nearly $1.5 million. The city has spent a ton of money on the system, but he agrees that's not enough.

Commissioner Ray Mabry said the budget for the street and sanitation department is very lean with only $100,000 to $110,000 put back into the sanitary sewer system each year. That money doesn't go very far, he said.

The council has to find some way to come up with more dollars to go toward the problem and to see what work could be done in-house, Mabry said, adding as the council works on next year's budget, it will have to do some soul-searching to come up with more money.

Clawson said the city is not waiting for the Farnsworth Group study to make a plan, but he has been putting together, on the direction of the council, ways to get more money for the needed work. He will have some proposals for the council at the July 29 public planning session for the council and department heads.

In a related comment, Cain thanked the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for its assistance in helping residents get financial assistance for the expenses caused by the April rains and flooding. FEMA did a great job in addressing the situation, the mayor said.

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