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Sanford solution to lingering sewage stench costly

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SANFORD - The state said they would tear down the entire town of Sanford if nothing was done about the sewage there. To keep that from happening, the city council just approved a million dollar loan to help pay for a $2 million sewer, and not everyone's happy about it.

The new sewer system means a monthly increase in utilities from approximately $40 to $70. A price many say they can't afford, while others say the town will die if nothing is done.

With a population of just over 160, Sanford residents know they live in a small town. But they say just because it's small, doesn't mean it has be run down. Yet, it is.

"Nothing has been done for years in this town and it needs to come up, because it is going down," Mayor Pro Tem Fern Whipkey said.

Dozens of homes sit abandoned because of the stench from broken septic tanks and uncovered cesspools.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has deemed the soil in much of the town contaminated.

"The state can come in here any time and shut this whole city down," Whipkey said.

Whipkey signed off Monday on an offer from the USDA to build a sewer system for the entire town.

The upgrade will cost over $2 million dollars, the USDA is providing a grant for $931,000, and city residents will have to pay the rest, raising utility bills by at least $43.

Right now that cost is only split 81 ways, but if problems are fixed, residents hope more people and more businesses could move in to town and those rates could go down.

Whipkey says no one will move to Sanford right now because no banks will grant loans for a home with no sewage system. She also says the sewer will raise the value of homes and make insurance cheaper.

Despite projected benefits from a new sewer, many, including Sanford Mayor Bernard Pacheco, also know as Mule Skinner, only see a burden.

"We're not going to have families move in if we're adding $70 a month to their monthly bills," Skinner said.

Skinner says he knows so many people on fixed incomes who are already struggling to get by, that he refused to sign off on the USDA loan.

"I feel that if I would have signed it, that I would have been biblical in taking care of the people here that elected me as mayor," Skinner said.

Regardless, Whipkey signed off on the deal for him.

"We're trying to improve the city," she said.

A high price she's willing to pay, she says, to make her hometown safe and sewage-free.

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