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East Spencer residents look forward to water prices dropping

By Steve Huffman
shuffman@salisburypost.com
EAST SPENCER ó Almost a year’s worth of work to East Spencer’s waterlines is nearing an end, and residents should soon see considerable improvement in water quality and pressure.
“This is a step in the right direction,” said Mayor Erma Jefferies. “It should solve the majority of our water problems.”
The work began last September and was financed largely through a $1.7 million bond referendum passed by residents in 2006. Another $205,000 in grants is helping with the improvements.
Work on the waterlines has been extensive, with large sections of the town’s system replaced and upgraded. Estimates are that before the work began, the town was losing as much as 40 percent of its water through leaks.
Much of the town’s water system was more than 50 years old, constructed of galvanized piping that had corroded and/or sprung leaks.
Jefferies said that because of the leaks, residents were paying exorbitant water bills, sometimes as much as four times as high as those in neighboring municipalities.
“Our citizens should, rightfully so, be paying the same as residents in other towns,” Jefferies said.
Dave Brinkley, construction inspector for Salisbury-Rowan Utilities, spent Wednesday afternoon driving through town, taking a look as employees of ADC Construction ó hired by the town for the work ó put the finishing touches to much of the work.
“It’s gone well,” Brinkley said. “They’ve made a good hit on the problems and in upgrading the system.”
East Spencer operates its own water system, though the town purchases water from Salisbury-Rowan Utilities. Brinkley inspected the work to make sure it met the utility’s specifications.
He estimated that 350 new water meters have been installed throughout town. Most of the new lines are 6 inches in diameter, sometimes replacing lines that were as small as three-quarters of an inch. Numerous new fire hydrants have also been installed, in the process improving the safety of residences and businesses.
Brinkley said East Spencer’s waterline woes, while serious, were not unusual. He said a number of small municipalities in Rowan County had waterlines installed 50 or 60 years ago and the systems have in the decades since deteriorated.
The difference between East Spencer’s situation and those of most area municipalities, Brinkley said, is that the majority of the others have at least partially updated their systems over the years. By comparison, little work had been done to the East Spencer system.
“Whenever you messed with the water in this town,” Brinkley said, “you never knew what you were getting into.”
Now, things should be greatly improved.
On Wednesday, Brinkley took a look at work being done at the intersection of Long and Henderson streets. He motioned to several houses that lined Henderson Street near its western end at the railroad tracks.
Brinkley said that until recent work was completed, there were no waterlines along Henderson Street to those houses. The residences were served by small lines installed in a roundabout way off an adjoining street.
Now, 6-inch lines made of PVC pipe serve the houses at the end of Henderson Street. Brinkley said water quality and pressure to the houses should improve dramatically.
“The people in this neighborhood should be able to see an immediate improvement,” Brinkley said.
Wesley Rustin, a resident of Geroid Street, said he’d never had a lot of trouble with water pressure to his house, but admitted he’d be glad when work to the waterlines was finished. That’s because, Rustin said, he’s tired of having to do without water as it’s shut off as repairs are completed.
He said he was getting ready to prepare collard greens Wednesday morning when water to his house was cut.
Rustin said he’s lived in the town long enough to remember when the lines that are being replaced were installed.
“They were put in in ’52,” Rustin said. “I remember. I’m 72, now.”
Mayor Jefferies said repaying the bonds received for the work will be done over a 40-year period.

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