November 19, 2014 Edition

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Hoxie to assess damaged
sewer lines, Ditto resigns

Megan Heyl
Staff Writer

At the Nov. 11 meeting, Hoxie aldermen voted to further inspect sewer laterals connected to four Hoxie properties to determine if they can be reconnected to the main line or need to be replaced. Also, Chris Ditto informed the council that he would be resigning as assistant fire chief.

After a replacement was made on a failed sewer main, which serviced houses on Northeast Kelly and Northeast Carolina, attempts to reconnect laterals on four properties was halted when the lines were discovered to be damaged.

Mayor Lanny Tinker said the laterals were made using inferior materials by today's standards and over the years have deteriorated. He said that as workers dug the lines out the materials crumbled in their hands.

A letter was sent out in accordance with ordinance #415 to the homeowners at the properties with damaged laterals. The letter stated that homeowners had 10 days after installation of the main line was complete to take corrective action and that they would be notified when the 10-day period starts. Should the homeowners fail to make the necessary repairs in the time allotted, the city has the authority to disconnect their water service.

Alderman Tim Taylor said the letters were not meant to scare people and were simple to notify the homeowners of the issues and open a line of communication.

Many Hoxie citizens, including two of the homeowners with damaged lines, attended the meeting with concerns about how the city would handle the sewer issues and who would be responsible for the cost of repairs.

City Attorney Bobby Gibson said according to state statutes, cities are only responsibly for the main sewer system and it is the landowner's responsibility to maintain and replace lines on private property.

Mayoral candidate Dennis Coggins said the city has to keep the citizens in mind when handling this issue. "These people are on fixed incomes," he said. He continued to say they simply couldn't afford the cost of repairs, which can climb as high at $1,700 according to Coggins.

Coggins also expressed fears that the city workers had caused the line damage during excavating. "You took some people there that didn't know what they were doing."

Tinker said that the damage on the laterals existed prior to the city's work and that while the lines may have been functioning, they were no longer up to code and to connect them to the new sewer main would be irresponsible.

Coggins said that the city could still cut back to a solid portion of the line and use adaptors to hook to the new sewer main.

However, Gibson strongly advised against working on any part beyond the property line. He said that not only would it put the city at high liability risk, it would also cause an increase in sewer rates in order to cover the repairs.

After hearing from other concerned citizens, the council voted to have the city dig out the laterals to the property lines and have both the city building inspector, Frank Owens, and the state plumbing inspector inspect the lines. If it is determined that the laterals are too damaged to reconnect at that point, the responsibility to replace them will fall to the homeowners.

Coggins thanked the council for taking the time to hear everyone and authorizing a thorough inspection of the lines.

Also at the meeting, Chris Ditto informed the council that he would be resigning as assistant fire chief. He said that he loves Hoxie and spent as much time as he could working to improve the city, often putting in hours he wasn't scheduled for.

However, he said some rumors had recently been spread about him during the political race that are putting his credibility at risk. He felt he must resign in order to protect his family's reputation and his full-time job as a deputy.

He added that the mayor, city council and city of Hoxie have all been good to him and he'd be happy to assist with anything in the future.

"I'm sorry to be leaving. It hurts me," he said.

In other business:

  • The council set new rates for the Hoxie Service Center to take effect in 2015, which include a discount for those reserving the center for an entire day. The rates for Hoxie citizens are as follows: Monday through Thursday, $40 for a single shift and $60 for both shifts; Friday through Sunday, $70 for a single shift and $105 for both shifts. The rates for noncitizens are as follows: Monday through Thursday, $70 for a single shift and $105 for both shifts; Friday through Sunday, $100 for a single shift and $150 for both shifts. Fundraiser and dance fees will remain at $100.

  • Tinker announced that police chief Glen Smith led a drug bust Monday, which confiscated about $20,000 worth in drugs and drug paraphernalia.

  • Russ Barber, who ran in the mayoral race in the 2014 General Election, commended the council and Mayor Tinker for their work. "You got a hard job," he said. Barber also said everyone needs to understand that the city's infrastructure is old and will break down, and the city and its citizens need to work together in correcting this and quit blaming each other.

  • The council gave their blessing for the Hoxie Service Center to be renamed the Kenneth Quarry Service Center in honor of Alderman Kenneth Quarry, who is the longest serving alderman to date at Hoxie and will be stepping down for incoming alderman Becky Ditto in January. The resolution will be prepared for the next council meeting.

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