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SPRING HOPE CANDIDATE FORUM

Steady leak highlights Spring Hope's water woes

Posted on October 10, 2021

Updated on October 11, 2021

Local newsTop news
A leak is shown Oct. 2 on Branch Street in downtown Spring Hope. The continued leak could lead to serious problems like sinkhole erosion, according to Tony Jefferys, a retired construction contractor and candidate for town commissioner.

Lindell J. Kay | Enterprise

A leak is shown Oct. 2 on Branch Street in downtown Spring Hope. The continued leak could lead to serious problems like sinkhole erosion, according to Tony Jefferys, a retired construction contractor and candidate for town commissioner.

Quote

Envirolink has to go."

Tony Jefferys, Spring Hope commissioner candidate 

lkay@springhopeenterprise.com | 252-265-8117

SPRING HOPE — An underground water supply valve has been leaking at the corner of Pine and Branch streets for more than a week.

Water has steadily bubbled up from a valve cover in the asphalt and flowed to a storm drain a few feet away nonstop since Sept. 30.

The problem began when the town asked Envirolink, the company contracted to handle its public works, to wash down certain streets in preparation for the 49th annual Spring Hope National Pumpkin Festival, which was held the weekend of Oct. 1.

Spring Hope Board of Commissioners candidate Tony Jefferys, a retired civil construction contractor, said he watched an Envirolink employee try to use a hydrant at Pine and Branch, give up and go to the next one.

Later, another Envirolink employee showed up and opened the water valve beneath the street. The employee turned the valve more than 30 times, much more than needed, Jefferys said.

When water began to flow up through the street, the Envirolink employee left, Jefferys said.

The continued leak is literally money down the drain and could lead to serious problems like sinkhole erosion, said Jefferys, who brought up the situation at last week’s town board meeting.

CANDIDATES WEIGH IN

The town’s water woes were discussed at length during The Enterprise’s candidate forum held Thursday at the Spring Hope Community Building.

The history of residents and town officials’ displeasure with Envirolink is well documented in town meeting minutes and in this newspaper. The situation became even more tense over the summer with main line breaks that meant the town went without water for three days.

A water line break in front of the post office in the days just before the Pumpkin Festival harried officials and further enraged residents who woke up yet again without water.

Jefferys said the water system is old and needs to be replaced piecemeal. He said the pipes are cracking and the town, through Envirolink, is only applying Band-Aid fixes like filling in the leak hole in front of the post office with mud instead of gravel. Jeffreys believes grants could be found to replace sections of the water infrastructure.

Commissioner Brent Cone said the town is working on grants. New subdivisions create their own new infrastructure, and the town needs new homes so an increased tax base can help pay for improvements.

Commissioner Ricky Tucker said the town is working to restart a well that’s been offline for several years.

Commissioner candidate Jason Himmelright asked what the town learned during the leaks and why parts and pipes weren’t being purchased for emergencies.

As for Envirolink as a whole, all eight candidates who participated in the forum had choice words. Tucker said contracting with Envirolink is the worst decision the town has ever made.

Mayoral candidate and current Commissioner Prudence Wilkins said she’s not happy with Envirolink’s work at the town’s cemetery. She said families have visited the cemetery and found open graves.

Kyle Pritchard, also running for mayor, said the bad contract between the town and Envirolink has let the company get away with too much and leaves a lot of room for improvement.

Cone said Envirolink’s contract is up at the beginning of 2022.

Jeffreys said Envirolink needs to go.

On Saturday, Jeffreys said he will hold a discussion on Envirolink issues at 10 a.m. Oct. 16 at Michael’s Showside Grill.

“The safety and construction practices are only the tip of the iceberg,” Jefferys said. “I want to share the overall picture of what is taking place. Also want to share how I think the town should move forward.”

MORE QUESTIONS

After the forum, Himmelright posted more thoughts and questions about Envirolink on social media.

“Envirolink needs to be held accountable,” Himmelright said. “The new contract, being negotiated by the sitting board, will take effect in 2022 and will have a lot to do with how effectively that can be done.”

Himmelright asked:

• “How will the current sitting board hold (Envirolink) accountable?”

• “Will (commissioners) be here to see work being done incorrectly while it is being done?”

• “Will the new contract allow Envirolink to hold Spring Hope hostage for another five years?”

• “Has a cost analysis on gradually removing services from Envirolink already been done? If not, why not? If so, what were the results?”

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