By CALVIN ADKINS
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
PRINCEVILLE — Faulty fire hydrants remain covered and there's no timetable as to when the apparatuses will be repaired. However, Princeville Volunteer Fire Department officials have taken extra measures to ensure the safety of the citizens and their property.
At least 25 out of 80 fire hydrants in the town are either not working or in dire need of repairs. Two of the faulty hydrants are near some of the town's largest structures — St. Luke Church of Christ Disciples of Christ and Princeville Museum — the museum is located adjacent to the fire department.
The town was approved a $50,000 grant by the N.C. Rural Center to repair and replace the faulty hydrants. Town officials as well as members of the fire department celebrated the good news. That celebration was cut short when Gov. Pat McCrory asked the Office of State Budget and Management to freeze grants of Rural Center funds when a state audit found that the center had failed to follow the law and regulations in awarding grants.
Funds will be released as the Office of State Budget and Management determines the grants are in compliance with state laws and rules, and as they come due, McCrory said in a July statement.
The Local Government Commission, who took over the town finances in 2012 due to its poor financial conditions, applied for the grant for Princeville. The LGC is still working to find means to address the problem.
"Because of the transition of grant programs from the Rural Center to Commerce we have asked for and are in the process of receiving a final commitment from Commerce," said Schorr Johnson," LGC press secretary. "In the meantime, we have replaced the fire hydrant closest to the elementary school and will continue working down the list. As costs are incurred, we will seek reimbursement under the grant."
James Powell, president of Princeville Volunteer Fire Department, said he is disappointed that the money was not awarded. But his department is not just standing by waiting for funds to come in.
"We have to come up with solutions that can help us do our jobs when the time arises," Powell said. "One of the things we're doing is looking at alternate sources and methods of supplying water when needed. We've purchased some five inch hoses which will help produce better pressure. We're also are depending on resources from mutual aid. The town is safe."
Mutual aid is an agreement between all of Edgecombe County's volunteer fire departmentsto give assistance to the home department in which incident may occur. During a structural fire call, at least three departments, including the home department, are summoned.
Edgecombe County has taken over managing Princeville's water and sewer system. During the county's Aug. 5, monthly meeting, The Wooten Co. reported it will cost $92,000 to replace the hydrants. County manager, Lorenzo Carmon, assured the county board that Princeville citizens and their property are not in immediately danger.
"We have 16 fire departments that provide mutual aid to each other," he said. "We still have tankers and when these guys respond to fires they bring they bringing 5,000 to 6,000 gallons of water with them. Houses are not burning down because a fire hydrant is not working. A fire hydrant might not be working because it may be a valve that may not be turned on. But right down the streets, a hundred yards away, is another fire hydrant. So everything is not in jeopardy of being burned down.
"Princeville has a good insurance rating. Their latest Inspection reduced their rate from 9 to a 6. So It's not bad."
Although the Rural Center grant has not been obligated to Princeville Carmon is not giving up hope.
"They are going to put it (Rural Center funding) somewhere and we are going to do everything that we can do to find it."