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franklin county times

Red Bay dedicates new clearwell, pump station in memory of Frankie Smith

The Red Bay Water and Gas Department celebrated a finished project a long time in the making Sunday – the dedication of a new clearwell in memory of Frankie Smith. Smith, who put in 12 and a half years working for the Red Bay Water and Gas Department, passed away from COVID-19 in 2021.

A plaque in his honor is affixed to the outside of the pump station surrounding the new clearwell, which is located outside of the water and gas plant.

“We’ve been working on this for years,” explained board Chairman Mike Shewbart. He explained the old clearwell – where where filtered water is stored before it goes into water tanks – suffered from a leak and insufficient capacity.

“Our clearwell had been leaking for years, and we had money after refinancing that we were able to use for this project. It was Frankie’s No. 1 priority – to get us a new clearwell in order to adequately supply Red Bay with clean water,” continued Shewbart.

“We appreciate what he did and his service of 12 and a half years for the citizens of Red Bay. This is an asset for the people – something our city greatly needed.”

Jeff Burks, one of five grade four operators at the plant, explained more about the situation, noting that while many people think Red Bay’s water comes from Bear Creek, it actually comes from three wells.

“We’re a grade four plant labeled by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management as groundwater under the influence of surface water,” explained Burks, “and the water from the wells is pumped into our plant.” He went on to note that from that point, “iron, manganese and other things are filtered out of the water.”

“Nobody deserves their name on that plaque more than Frankie Smith,” explained Burks. “He did a lot to put the wheels in motion to get a new clearwell.”

Burks said the usable water capacity in the old clearwell was approximately 40,000 gallons, while the capacity of the new one is about 230,000 gallons.

“Frankie was not just a board member but also my friend,” Burks added. “He started the process of the reality of what we see today with the new clearwell. His voice was the loudest early on in getting this project started.”

Red Bay Mayor Charlene Fancher expressed her enthusiasm for the new clearwell and for the work Smith did for the water and gas board to serve Red Bay.

“I highly commend the Red Bay Water and Gas Board for dedicating the new clearwell in honor and in memory of Frankie Smith,” said Fancher. “Through the years, in my work on the city council and as mayor, we had many, many discussions, and we didn’t always see eye-to-eye, but that’s one thing I truly appreciated about him, regardless: We could sit down and talk and hash things out in a civil manner.

“We made progress that way. I appreciate that very much about him.

“I highly respect him and all he did for the Red Bay Water and Gas Department and for the American Legion in Red Bay,” Fancher added. “He was dedicated and sincere in working to make progress.”

For the general manager of the water and gas plant, Doug Aaron, the new clearwell represents a big benefit for treatment operations, with the larger capacity.

“It will let us be able to put out a lot of water and change our operational run times,” Aaron explained. “The old clearwell was leaking at a rate of 12 gallons a minute. Having this new clearwell will be a big benefit to Red Bay.”

Shewbart said Smith was always concerned with being efficient and thorough and spent the time needed to find out the facts.

“When he made a decision, it was about what was best for everybody else,” Shewbart said. “We miss Frankie, and we want to thank him and his family for what he’s done for us.”