FRANKFORD – Town of Frankford officials on Valentine’s Day will address a proposal that could end a long-running debate with the state and negotiation stalemate with Mountaire Farms dwelling from a well that substantially tapped the town’s water revenue.
Town council on Feb. 14 will discuss and possibly vote on the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s settlement proposal: forgiveness of nearly a half million dollars in state loans.
Town councilman Marty Presley explained “stipulations for DNREC forgiving our loans is we need to get a feasibility study done first. Then once that feasibility study is completed, we need to put a fluoridation system on the water plant so the town’s water is fluoridated.”
The fluoridation system “has got to be on there for a minimum of 90 days and then at that point they will consider writing off the loans,” Mr. Presley said.
Loans under consideration for forgiveness total approximately $450,000, Mr. Presley said. The funding was utilized by the town for its water plant and system.
The crux of the issue is a well drilled by Mountaire for high-volume production needs for feed mill operations at its plant on Daisey Street.
The non-potable well, approved by DNREC through the permitting process, went into operation in January 2016. Several months later the town noticed a substantial 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.
That translates into a revenue loss of about $75,000 to $80,000 annually, according to Mr. Presley.
In explaining Mountaire’s need, company spokesman Mike Tirrell last year said the town system simply could not provide the adequate pressure and quality required for its chicken feed production.
The plant experienced periodic shutdowns to deal with those issues, Mr. Tirrell said. So, Mountaire received DNREC’s blessing and drilled the well.
Town and Mountaire officials have discussed the monetary issue. Last year Mountaire offered $1,000 a month for 10 years; the town rejected that and countered with a $3,000 per month proposal, Mr. Presley said. There was no agreement, said Mr. Presley.
“We’d much rather have them hooked up and buying the water that they had been buying in the past. But obviously, that is not going to happen,” said Mr. Presley.
A Mountaire settlement proposal is on the agenda for the Feb. 14 meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. in the Frankford Fire Hall.
In the early 2000s, the town of Frankford took on substantial bond debt to upgrade its water plant. The loan amount was more than $1 million. The upgrade was undertaken, Mr. Presley said, on the premise that it would pump approximately four million gallons monthly, with Mountaire the largest user.
Town officials challenged DNREC’s decision to authorize a permit without consultation/approval from the town. At issue is a change in state law in 2001 that removed any municipal government from having approval authority over non-potable wells.
Last August, the town appealed DNREC’s decision to grant the well permit to the state Environmental Appeals Board. The hearing date is Feb. 28 in Dover. That date may be broken.
“The idea is that we will postpone that until the everything – the feasibility and the fluoridation – can all be completed,” said Mr. Presley. “Once all the ‘I’s are dotted and ‘T’s’ are crossed and the fluoridation is on then we will go ahead and cancel the appeal altogether.”