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Salem sewer project revised, ready to proceed

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Salem Public Works Director Bill Worsham checks a bank that has eroded along the South Fork river. The erosion needs to be stopped to protect the sewer plant's cascade (far right), a concrete structure which releases treated sewage into the river. Funds to reinforce the bank are included in a federal grant, which will also replace much of the sewer line along the Town Branch. Photo by Richard Irby
Before Salem begins a $486,000 project to replace a section of old sewer lines, the engineering company overseeing the project decided to take a closer look.

The project will upgrade a sewer line which runs along the Town Branch, from the Highway 62/412 and Main Street intersection, to the sewage treatment plant near the hospital.

Last month, the Arkansas Rural Water Association ran a camera through the entire line to evaluate its condition and identify problem areas.

"They (engineers) decided to check this entire line out to see if maybe there are parts we would not have to replace. Then, they had to revise their plans. So that has put us about 30-days behind the schedule they gave us," Mayor Gary Clayton told the Salem City Council at its July 26 meeting.

The camera found the sewer line, installed in 1965, was in surprisingly good shape.

"I expected the whole line would have to be replaced," Public Works Director Bill Worsham told The News, "but most of it was in pretty good shape."

According to Worsham, a couple of breaks in the line were discovered, and tree roots had grown into the line in lots of places.

"We'll just replace the portions of the line that are bad, and that will save money," Worsham said.

Under a revised plan, bids will be advertised for the project in September, and awarded in October. 3,500 feet of 12-inch sewer line will be replaced, along with 21 manholes. The grant will also pay for improvements to the levee between the two lagoons at the treatment plant, and work to reinforce the river bank at the cascade, the concrete structure where treated sewage is discharged into the river.

Worsham said the new manholes will help improve operations at the sewer plant. Many manholes are not water tight, so storm run off gushes into sewer lines, putting an extra load on the treatment plant during wet periods, and allowing sewage, which is not fully treated, to be discharged into the river.

On July 23, the Arkansas Economic Development office gave the project the environmental clearances it needs and, with preliminary work completed, the project is ready to move forward.

Salem was able to obtain the $486,000 grant because the sewage treatment plant has been damaged by flooding several times, including during rains in 2008 caused by Hurricane Ike. The grant money comes from a fund established to help with repairs from the hurricane.

According to project administrator Cassie Elliott, the sewer line upgrade was approved because, "Existing conditions pose a severe threat to the health and welfare of the community."

In other city council business, council members learned that June sales tax revenue was up $1,400 over June of 2011.

Mayor Gary Clayton credits new life on the Salem square for the increase.

"As you can tell, there is quite a bit of activity on the square. There are new businesses, and some old business now have programs underway to revitalize and improve," Clayton said. "So I think that is going to continue to do good through the remainder of the year."

Clayton added it will be interesting to see whether the drought will slow sales tax collections in August and September. Farmers and others affected by the drought may cut back spending.

Salem Police Chief Al Roork and Fire Chief Nick Blanton reported that their departments had busy months.

According to Roork, officers handled five auto accidents in June, 15 reports of burglaries and thefts, and eight domestic disputes. Roork called two of the domestic violence cases "very serious." In one case, a victim had to be airlifted to Springfield after suffering numerous stab wounds. Three people were charged with Domestic Battery in the Third Degree.

Mayor Clayton mentioned that Chief Roork will be retiring on Aug. 31, after 33 years with the Salem Police Department. The Aug. 23 council meeting will begin with a community event to honor Roork.

"We're going to have a walk-in reception for Albert from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Aug. 23, here at City Hall," Clayton said. "Then, we're going to have our council meeting at 7 p.m. Most of that meeting will recognize Albert and, at that time, we'll announce the new police chief."

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