Category Archives: UTILIITIES
BAYBORO – Like a cavalry to the rescue, a dozen massive bucket trucks and more than 20 heavily clothed linemen pulled into the parking lot of Fred A. Anderson Elementary School shortly before 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Their uniforms: White hard hats and fluorescent green safety vests. Their mission: Restore electricity to thousands in numerous eastern North Carolina counties.
Employed by Utility Line Construction Services of Willow Grove, Penn., this small army of workers, deployed from Durham, will be directed by officials with Duke Progress Energy, who possess the data and locations of numerous power outages across the region.
Joe Jackson, a B-Lineman, was generally upbeat, but quickly nodded when asked if he expected to work most of a cold winter night. Over the next 12-plus hours, Jackson and his counterparts will head first into those areas hardest hit by sleet and freezing rain, which began late Monday night and continued into much of Tuesday.
Duke Progress Energy officials were cautiously optimistic – hopeful that widespread repairs would go smoothly, and that a great many households would be back up and running before dawn.
May have used clout to avoid expenses
By Jeff Aydelette | Staff Writer
BAYBORO – The Assistant Building Inspector for Pamlico County resigned Wednesday, as he faced a three-day suspension and possible termination, in a controversy involving sewer service to a new structure – originally constructed next to his personal home under a building permit that specified a garage and not a residence.
Ray Bennett Jr., employed for many years as the county’s Assistant Building Inspector, submitted his letter of resignation Wednesday night. In the brief correspondence to County Manager Tim Buck, Bennett acknowledged the original garage had morphed into a residence and that he “temporarily connected to the existing sewer utilities already installed at my home.”
The connection – without payment of a required impact fee and other sizable expenses – was recently detected by officials with Bay River Metropolitan Sewerage District.
In an e-mail to the County Compass, sewer superintendent Chris Venters declined any information, saying “although I have no public document to share, information concerning this has been turned over to Tim Buck, Pamlico County Manager, for his review and action. Until this review is complete, it would be inappropriate to comment further.”
Those familiar with the case point to the fact that Bennett – more so that just about anyone else in the county – would have been intimately familiar with the rules and regulations involving new structures. And, for this reason, he would clearly have known the impropriety of unauthorized access to a holding tank maintained by the sewer facility.
Pamlico County Building Inspector Skip Lee was Bennett’s direct supervisor, and will likely take over his assistant’s duties, at least for the short term.
Here is Bennett’s letter of resignation, dated July 10:
Dear Mr. Buck;
Please accept this as my formal resignation as the Assistant Building Inspector for Pamlico County. I would like to explain some of the events that have recently come into question with permits that were originally issued for a new garage at my residence. After finishing some of the construction I decided to use the dwelling as an apartment. So far the construction has taken over eighteen months and is still not complete. I temporarily connected to the existing sewer utilities already installed at my home. It was never my intention for this to be a permanent installation but to be temporarily used until construction was complete and before a Certificate of Occupancy was issued.
I have enjoyed working for Pamlico County and with Skip Lee. It was never my intention to use my authority in the inspections department to personally benefit.
By Jeff Aydelette | Staff Writer
BAYBORO – As the Pamlico County Commission braces for an April 1 public hearing on a new county law to govern wind turbines and other tall structures, the General Assembly appears likely to repeal a state law that provides much of the impetus for wind energy development across the state.
House Bill 298, introduced last week, bears the official title of “An Act to Reduce the Burden of High Energy Costs on the Citizens of North Carolina by Eliminating Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards; and to Provide for Cost Recovery by Public Utilities for Certain Costs of Compliance with Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards.”
The proposed legislation takes a state law passed in 2007 – by a predominantly Democrat-controlled legislature – and strikes lines and lines of provisions, including the word ‘wind’ in a section of the original law that defines ‘renewable energy resources.’
If the proposed bill is approved later this year – which insiders believe will happen – the state’s electricity providers will no longer be required to purchase part of their energy needs from renewable resources. And, without that mandated revenue stream, wind energy projects across the state may lose much of their economic viability.
Special to the County Compass
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Last week representatives from Beaufort County including County Commissioners Ed Booth and Hood Richardson; County Manager Randell Woodruff; and lobbyist/consultant Joe McClees met with Frank DiGiovanni of the U.S. Department of Defense Clearinghouse.
The massive federal department is currently reviewing several pending wind turbine projects in eastern North Carolina to determine what, if any, impacts the projects may have on current or planned future military operations within Beaufort County and elsewhere.
Officials in Beaufort County have expressed concern as one project has come under intense scrutiny due to its close proximity to an important military flight path. The project has tremendous potential to benefit the County with annual revenue exceeding $1 million in tax/lease payments to the County government and local landowners.
After the Clearinghouse meeting, it now appears the project may be allowed to proceed once wind energy develop Invenergy completes the process of working with the Clearinghouse officials to relocate a number of the turbines to lessen the impact on the air flight path to the military’s bombing range located in Dare County.
Commissioners Booth and Richardson, who rarely agree on policy matters, issued this joint statement: “We are extremely pleased by the outcome of the meeting and especially the cooperative spirit of Mr. DiGiovanni. The entire Board of Commissioners supports the military and the Commissioners desire not to infringe in any way on the military’s ability to complete their vital training mission.”
The Department of Defense Clearinghouse will continue to review the project over the next few months. For additional information, call Beaufort County Government at 252-946-0079.
BAYBORO – Wind turbines proposed for Pamlico County, which would be built directly under 1,000 square miles of restricted airspace, are likely to wreak havoc with the radar systems of Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station.
And, any ‘mitigating technology,’ which might minimize or eliminate these impacts, has yet to be developed, according to two experts, Dr. Mike Evers and David Plummer, who addressed a joint session of the Pamlico County Commission and the Pamlico County Planning Board Wednesday night.
The elected county commissioners, the all-volunteer planning board, and approximately 100 county residents were forced to read between the lines during the one-hour session.
Evers and Plummer made it clear that the Armed Services are under strict federal admonishments to encourage development of alternative energies. But, in almost the same breath, the two men repeatedly stressed that effective mitigation of wind turbines’ adverse effects is currently impossible to implement.
“Radar screens at the base would be filled up with these false airplanes,” said Plummer, explaining how the rotating blade of a turbine would be interpreted. “I can’t wait for the day when mitigation might take care of that problem.”
And, the computer slide that remained up the longest – on a screen controlled by Evers – bluntly stated the problem: “To date, no study data is published indicating technology exists to eliminate wind turbine adverse effects on radar.”
County Commissioners approve Feb. 6 session, over objections of Delamar
By Jeff Aydelette | Staff Writer
BAYBORO – Usually when representatives from Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station request permission to appear before a governmental board, local elected officials bend over backwards to accommodate their wishes.
After all, the marine base is one of the region’s largest employers. The economic impact of operations there is unparalleled. And, of course, few would ever question the worthiness of its mission – to protect the security of our nation.
However, Tuesday night, one Pamlico County Commissioner, Paul Delamar III, broke the mold. He repeatedly, and vehemently, opposed Cherry Point’s request – tendered as an item on the commissioners’ agenda — to address a future joint session of the county commission and an appointed committee known as the county planning board.
On almost any other previous night, the county commissioners would have given the agenda item a quick, routine, and unanimous OK.
This time, however, Delamar made it clear that he questioned the Marine Corps’ motives. He said the session, proposed for Wednesday, Feb. 6, would give the Corps’ a public platform “to tell us what restrictions they want for us to put on wind energy development in this county.”
That posture left the rest of the commissioners a bit bamboozled.
Commissioner Kenny Heath seemed to speak for many when he said: “They (Marine Corps) deserve our respect just based upon who they are.” Heath later added, “I would like to hear from the military and about any of their concerns.”
But Delamar, who quickly endorsed the prospect of wind turbines dotting the Pamlico County landscape when word of various projects surfaced in late 2011, continued to unload.
“These are people who don’t want any wind energy projects in this county,” he said. “I believe they are planning on trotting out here desperate to create more of a public spectacle. They want to whip up anti-wind energy sentiments.”
The commissioners ultimately approved the measure – with Delamar the only nay vote — after Commissioner Carl Ollison, who serves on the planning board, said information from Cherry Point would help county planners in developing a comprehensive wind energy ordinance – something the board has been directed to do by the county commission.
“If you have it (the Feb. 6 joint session), the planning board will definitely come,” said Ollison. “I guarantee it.”
Utility’s director explains problem, vows corrective measures
By Chris Venters, Executive Director | Bay River Metropolitan Sewerage District | Special to the County Compass
BAYBORO — On Aug. 7, 2012, Bay River Metropolitan Sewerage District received a Notice of Violation from the Division of Water Quality within the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
This notice cited a failure to comply with permit requirements and therefore the Sewer District that services the Oriental area will be placed on a sewer moratorium (with no new sewer taps or extensions) effective Sept. 22, 2012.
This will NOT affect the western part of the sewer system, which consists of the areas serving Stonewall, Bayboro, Mesic, Vandemere, Alliance, Grantsboro, and Reelsboro.
During the week of Sept. 2, a public notice will be published in our local newspapers to make the public aware of this moratorium.
Over the last few years, unforeseen problems and circumstances beyond our control have caused the reclaimed water infiltration basins located near Oriental to fail and not work as they were designed.
This failure forced the District to re-direct the reclaimed water from the new Oriental Sewer Plant to treatment facilities located in Bayboro, and eventually to the spray fields on Highway 306 in Arapahoe.
During Hurricane Irene last August, the Oriental Sewer Plant received major damage and is still not operating. This forced the re-opening of the lagoon system in Oriental that treats wastewater to secondary standards, rather than to the higher standards of the damaged plant.
Recent damage to the transmission line from Oriental to Bayboro has forced this secondary treated wastewater to again be re-directed to the basins. Once this transmission line is repaired and we can again redirect the treated wastewater to the Bayboro facility, we will request the moratorium to be lifted.
Corrective Actions that Bay River Metropolitan Sewerage District has been working on include:
1. Working with Contractors and Engineers to find the best solutions for the basin issues, including finding alternative solutions.
2. Working with FEMA and our Insurance Company to repair the Oriental Wastewater Treatment Plant. The cost of repairs exceeded $211,000. Repairs should be completed by Oct. 1, 2012.
3. Upgrading the Bayboro treatment facilities to allow more treatment capacity in the future. This project is 98 percent complete at a total cost of $1.2 million.
4. Improvements to, and expansion of, the spray fields on Highway 306 to allow more treated wastewater to be applied. The total cost of this project is $580,000.
5. Designing a new and larger transmission line from Oriental to Bayboro. The estimated cost of this project is $400,000 and should be completed by Nov. 30, 2012.
Bay River Metropolitan Sewerage District has and will continue to provide opportunities for economic growth within its boundaries through environmentally sound wastewater treatment and disposal.
The District is doing everything in its power to meet permit requirements in a responsible way. The District Board and Staff are dedicated to the people of this County. We will continue to do everything possible to resolve these issues.
Questions regarding the status of the sewer moratorium should be directed to Mr. Chris Venters at 252-745-4812.
By Judith Lynch | Special to the County Compass
MINNESOTT BEACH – The otherwise-peaceful atmosphere of this waterfront community will likely see some violence Thursday when a ‘retired’ water tower – some 140 feet high — loses its grip on the sky and crashes to the ground.
Larry Hughes, owner/operator of Hughes Welding in Reelsboro, has been laboring under a hot sun since July 16 preparing for the big event. The fenced site, just off Hwy. 306, contained two concrete block outbuildings, pumping and electrical equipment, wiring, massive water filtration tanks, and a mountain of salt.
All had to be demolished, disassembled or cut up, and hauled away prior to getting down to the business of toppling the tower.
Hughes, who began working on local trawlers as a teenager, is no stranger to hard work. Over the years he’s learned marine welding, steel fabrication, sandblasting, painting and more, but an accident nine years ago required a course change.
He is now land-based, and has expanded his professional welding services to include commercial and residential demolition and salvage work.
Past projects include taking down and recycling 40 or 50 large grain bins and some 60-foot by 65-foot fuel tanks. Asked what the biggest challenge has been so far on this project, he replied, “There’s nothing we haven’t run into before, except for the salt.”
Unafraid of heights but understandably reluctant to climb the rickety rungs of the skeletal, unenclosed 100’ ladder (“I would’ve done it when I was a kid”), he wisely employed a crane with a big, solid bucket to hoist him up the tower.
On each trip he hauled the eye-spliced, shackled end of a 450-foot long, 1-inch steel cable. Hanging out of the bucket, he bear-hugged the stiff cable around the structure, and attached it. No fool, he was wearing heavy work gloves and a very secure body harness.
The cables form a bridle and run toward two large trees far beyond the path of the tower. A massive steel block chained to the base of each tree will enable the bulldozer, run by Pamlico County Commissioner Kenny Heath (minus coat and tie), to make a low, straight pull and supply some direction to the falling structure. When the top of the tower leans over far enough – seven to eight feet off center — gravity should do the rest.
The target area, a “landing strip” between two large pine trees and marked by blue flags, sits well away from any structure or road. Hughes does not anticipate the tank’s heavy steel, riveted plates coming apart on impact.
The tower’s legs, which are strongly bolted to huge footings of solid reinforced concrete, will require some preparation. Prior to pulling the tower over, the 2-inch anchor bolts and 4-inch nuts will be cut through, and sections of the rear legs scored so on the tower’s way down, they will fold like giant hinges.
After the tower crashes to earth, three men with propane and liquid oxygen torches will attack the approximately 80-ton carcass, carving it up before it’s trucked to New Bern for recycling.
The salvage value of S & P (structural and plate) steel is currently $245 a ton, down from $300 only two months ago. Larry Hughes, who is completing the job for the value of the salvage less expenses, will have earned every single penny of it.
Safety is paramount in a complex undertaking such as this. Removing the structure is a dangerous, painstaking process and should present a remarkable and memorable sight to all who observe it.
Utility saves by trimming from air
By Lester Cloninger | Special to the County Compass
HIGHWAY 304 – An airborne buzzsaw — suspended from a helicopter and controlled by its solo pilot — spurred excitement this week along the Progress Energy right-of-way, which extends from Bayboro to the county’s remote northeast corner.
Over the next several weeks, a small army of employees and contractors are conducting the tactical ground and air assault in which trees are trimmed and debris cleared.
Power lines for Progress Energy sometimes follow Highway 304, but more often that not they deviate, taking much the same path as a crow – or helicopter – might fly, across marsh, forest, and other hard-to-reach areas.
This is an annual proactive effort to clear tree limbs and other vegetation from the power lines’ 30-foot right of way.
According to Matt Yaeger, a contract forester with Environmental Consultants Inc. — just one of Progress Energy’s sub-contractors — “this is a coordinated effort to serve the community and keep the power on.”
Ground crew operations normally utilize a boom truck with a 55-foot bucket extension to reach tree limbs and vegetation that encroach upon the utility’s easements. Working with ECI, Lewis Tree Service performs this groundwork support.
Restricted access over ditches, wetlands and other natural obstructions require an attack by other methods and Progress Energy is committed to its objective.
The County Compass received several calls this week. Alert citizens reported a helicopter using some type of an attachment .
The “air saw” trimming operations are being conducted by Aerial Solutions of Tabor City. Pilot Will Nesbit flies a Hughes 500 helicopter, equipped with an aerial saw comprised of 10 circular blades suspended 110 feet below the aircraft.
Nesbit is an Air Force Veteran and an independent contractor working with various organizations requiring his expertise. Along with his Crew Chief, Frank Cox, they have worked with Progress Energy for over six years — all without incident.
During a break, Nesbit said he enjoys the “danger of the challenge” and concedes he must be a little “off his rocker” to fly so close to power lines.
However, Progress Energy spokesman Dan Oliver described aerial sawing as a cheaper, faster, and more effective alternative to traditional ground crew operations in areas where access to treetops is difficult, if not impossible.
Nesbit and his earth-bound cohorts can clear an estimated 17 miles of power line each week, often working six consecutive days. Utility customers frequently overlook this type of preventive maintenance – at least until the lights go out.