By Stefanie Jackson – Exmore is expected to receive about $1.5 million in COVID-19 relief from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) that was signed into law March 12, and the town will use the funds for infrastructure, Town Manager Robert Duer said during the May 3 town council meeting.
Exmore Police Chief Angelo DiMartino has applied for a grant for street surveillance cameras that will cost about $150,000, but if the town receives the ARP funds it was promised, Exmore will use that money to pay for the cameras and the grant will not be needed, Duer said.
DiMartino added that a state grant paid for load-bearing vests now worn by all Exmore police officers. A load-bearing vest can hold many items of police gear, and university studies have shown load-bearing vests prevent and relieve leg, hip, and back pain, he said.
The remaining 90% of the ARP funds would be applied to the cost of Exmore’s sewer project.
Exmore negotiated an agreement with the Hampton Roads Sanitation District, which will build a force main near Route 13 to carry wastewater from Exmore and other localities to the Onancock treatment plant, which has excess capacity.
Exmore will be able to close its sewer treatment plant and build out its collection system to serve every home and business in town, increasing the number of sewer customers from about 350 to 900.
Exmore will bear the distinction of being the only town in the Hampton Roads Sanitation District to maintain its own sewer system and bill its customers, due to effective negotiations by town officials.
Duer noted that HRSD representatives have not yet signed the agreement, but he is confident they will.
Exmore business owner Ken Dufty thanked town officials for working with HRSD and made one request: the town should not require every household to purchase a grinder pump for processing wastewater into a slurry before sending it through the sewer collection system.
Dufty explained that as a landlord, his former tenants had completely blocked a septic tank by flushing items down the toilet such as diapers, toys, rubber gloves, and cigarette butts.
Those types of items would ruin a grinder pump and cost thousands of dollars in repairs over time.
Dufty acknowledged his suggestion might not be possible, but he wanted town officials to consider it.
But his outlook on the town’s future was overall positive. “I think we’re going to see a renewed interest, once we get that sewage in here, in developing commercial, residential, light industrial. I think it’s going to be a huge plus for us,” Dufty said.
He added that real estate values increase when a town offers both water and sewer service.
“People are buying in Exmore. People are coming here because we’re not Cape Charles. They’re coming here because we’re not Virginia Beach,” Dufty said.
“They’re coming here because we have low taxes, and good services, and good police enforcement, a good zoning administrator, great town manager … great administration, great public works … we have it all, and people are beginning to know that.”
In another matter, Exmore’s new well system has run into trouble after one year.
Director of Utilities Taylor Dukes said one of the well pump motors, which was out of warranty, experienced a catastrophic failure and cost $6,300 to replace.
He consulted an engineer, who determined an installation error caused the failure and “the motor welded itself together,” Dukes explained.
Exmore will likely end up in litigation with the installer, he said.
However, the town’s financial situation appears to be improving. A moratorium on utility shutoffs continues, but Exmore is receiving some COVID-19 relief and the situation is not in “dire straits,” Duer said.
He also expects the town to receive all the business license revenue it budgeted, about $100,000.