Contract awarded for Northampton water project

Published 9:38 am Monday, September 9, 2013

JACKSON – Phase V of a project that brings water to the citizens of Northampton County is on the verge of start-up, but not without concerns over which areas will be added.

At their meeting here Wednesday morning, the Northampton County Board of Commissioners were updated on the latest addition to the 30-year-old public water system.

Northampton Public Works Director Jason Morris said that a low base bid of $2,357,746.14 was submitted by Herring-Rivenbark, Inc. of Kinston, a utility contractor specializing in water and sewer projects. Other base bids were received from T.A. Loving Company ($4,314,326) and Tony Hawley Construction Company ($135,682,710).

In addition to the base bid, Herring-Rivenbark was also the lowest of the three bidding a trio of alternates to the project. Due to Northampton operating a tight budget on the project, Alternatives #2 and #3 were eliminated while three segments of Alternative #1 were approved at a combined cost of $1,319,135.86.

The base bid will bring county water to the following areas:

Jordan Mill Road back to NC Hwy 186 – 10 customers signed-up and paid;

Mt. Carmel Road from US 158 to Jackson By-pass Road – 10 customers signed-up and paid;

Tower Road from existing line to Diamond Grove intersection – 9 customers sign-up and paid;

From NC Hwy 35 onto Deloatch Mill Road to the bridge – 9 customers signed-up and paid;

Indian Branch Road to Ashley’s Grove Road to Perdue Hatchery Road to US Hwy 158 and Parker Road – 21 customers signed-up and paid;

Collier Road from Lasker Golf Course Road to Pin Hook Road – 3 customers signed-up and paid;

W. J. Duke Road from Rehoboth Road to Bryantown Road and Cumbo Road to Bolton Road – 20 customers signed-up and paid;

Oak Grove Church Road to Cherry Tree Road back to existing line on Cherry Tree Road – 21 customers sign-up and paid; and

Big John Store Road from Cornwallis Road to Bethel Church Road; Hickory Tree Road; US Hwy 301 from Reid Road to Serenity Place – 57 customers signed-up and paid.

The base bid also covers the Squire Booster Pump, the Hickory Hollow Booster Pump and pays for new radio read meters countywide. Another $100,000 of the project will be used for a modification to the existing Pea Hill Creek (Lake Gaston area) pressure reducing valve.

All totaled, Phase V’s base bid will results in 31miles of new water mains to the existing system and serve approximately 227 potential new customers.

Morris said after looking at the money remaining from a USDA loan ($4,871,000) and grant ($971,000), there were not enough funds to cover the three alternates to the project – roughly an extra $3.5 million. For that reason, only a portion of Alternate #1 was added to the project – 37 potential customers on a segment of the Jackson By-Pass Road (at an estimated construction cost of $798,454), 29 possible new accounts on Galatia Road and Britton Road ($759,154), and nine households on Pleasant Grove Road to the Jackson By-Pass Road ($202,154).

“We may realize more customers in all these areas (base bid and alternate sections) once construction begins on the water lines,” Morris told the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald after Wednesday’s meeting. “We have customers already signed-up and paid to connect to the county water system in these areas. What typically occurs upon the start-up of installing the new water lines is that others living in these areas who did not initially take the opportunity to sign-up will want to do so once the project begins. It’s easier and cheaper to add those new customers as the lines are being installed.”

During Wednesday’s meeting, Commission Chairman Robert Carter inquired of other areas he thought were included in Phase V.

“As I look at your document I have a serious problem with it,” Carter said. “You want to award water to people (in areas) that have a 52 percent, 65 percent, and a 59 percent sign-up ratio. I have citizens from Severn Road and Barrett Cabin Road who have been seeking water. I don’t see (in the documents) any potential customers for those roads or how many have signed up on those roads.”

Carter said he would like to see a breakdown of the potential customers on those two roads, to include how many signed-up in advance for the water service.

“If I’m not mistaken, neither of those roads are in the plan for the Phase V water extension,” Morris said.

“These people signed up more than two years ago for water,” Carter stressed. “Why aren’t they in the plan?”

“They are not in the base bid or any of the alternates,” Morris answered.

“Citizens living on those roads have been before this board asking for water; they have signed up,” Carter noted. “That was before your time (being named Public Works Director).”

“I’d have to go back to the office and pull the records and see what was in the public hearings when this project began; it’s been going on for 10-plus years,” Morris said. “I’d have to go back and look to see if a deposit was paid by citizens on the roads you mentioned.”

Carter asked one local citizen, Charles Tyner, to speak on the matter.

“I’m upset; 10 years ago I came to the commissioners asking for water; I came back five years ago asking the same thing,” Tyner recalled. “You said then that because of the budget you were not going to extend the (water) lines at that time, but when you were ready to move forward you would let me know.”

Tyner said Barrett Cabin Road (2.8 miles) has 22 homes. Turkey Branch Road (0.4 miles) has seven homes with four more lots up for sale. Watson Mill Road (0.3 miles) also has seven homes.

“We want water there,” Tyner stressed. “There are new homes being built, but they must dig a well for water. Why aren’t we on the list? What are the priorities for getting on this list?”

“From what was done in the past, our water line extensions were based on environmental concerns (contaminated private wells), the hydraulics of the current water system and the cost per user for the new water mains,” said Morris.

Carter asked Tyner had he or any other citizens of the roads Tyner mentioned ever signed-up for county water. Tyner said he did.

“As long as I’ve been working on this, I do not recall anything about Barrett Cabin Road and Severn Road in Phase V,” Morris stated.

Tyner said from the end of Turkey Branch Road, he can see homes in Hertford County that are served by the public water system there.

“Can we buy water from Hertford County,” Tyner asked.

“There’s a cost; we would have to get an engineering plan in place to do that,” Morris said.

Carter asked the board to table the issue until the records were checked in the Public Works Office. Morris responded by stressing the importance of the timing of this project.

“We don’t have much time for this,” he said. “The project has to be completed, with all money expended by July 2014 per the USDA agreement. We’re hoping to be on the Local Government Commission’s meeting agenda for Sept. 10, where final approval for interim financing will be determined. We’d like to proceed with this project, starting it by October.”

Commission Vice-Chair Virginia Spruill asked Morris how fast could he check the records and report back to the board.

“I can do it right now,” he answered. “Again, I don’t believe Barrett Cabin Road or Severn Road was in our PER (Preliminary Engineering Report) but I’ll gladly go check that out.”

“We do not need to delay this project,” said Commissioner Joe Barrett, basing his urgency on the USDA agreement that says all monies guaranteed for this project must be expended by July of next year.

“You do not want to get into a situation where you run out of time and the money is gone,” stated Chris Windley, the project manager representing McKim & Creed, the county’s engineering firm. “Even if we start in October, we’ll be pushing the July deadline to finish.”

Carter asked Morris to go to his office, research the water project records and report back to the board within one hour.

Upon his return, Morris confirmed his earlier beliefs.

“Barrett Cabin Road, Turkey Branch Road and Severn Road, none of these were in Phase V; there has been no PER performed in these areas,” Morris said. “There is one area on Severn Road, west of Severn, in Phase VI.”

Carter then asked for the documentation that would show if any citizens on those roads previously signed up for county water.

“There are no sign ups for those roads because they are not in Phase V,” Morris said.

“Hasn’t it been stated that Phase V is the last phase of our county’s water system,” asked Carter.

“I’ve heard that stated, but I can’t say for sure if that’s the last lines ever put in,” Morris said.

Morris did add that segment 7W (Henry Kee Road, to Pleasant Grove Road, to Hargrave Road to the water tank) may be added at an estimated cost of $345,000.

“There is money in the project budget for contingency,” he stated. “Come towards the end of the project, if there is money remaining, plus the contingency, there is the possibility of adding segment 7W, but I would like to wait towards the end of the project to ensure the funding is there.”

Carter asked if Barrett Cabin Road and Turkey Branch Road could be studied if there were any funds remaining. The board then approved awarding the base bid and three segments of Alternate #1 to Herring-Rivenbark for $3.77 million.

Other costs associated with the $5.84 million project includes water meters ($1.3 million), engineering fees ($470,412), contingency ($248,706), PER and design ($192,493), easement and wetland evaluations ($27,800), and administrative/legal fees ($40,000).

The improvements were improved by a voter referendum in July 2004 and the funds were obligated by USDA.

County Manager Wayne Jenkins (who has since retired) said the referendum was for seven years. Meanwhile, the county hit some rough spots with its enterprise fund generating revenue and the commissioners passed a resolution that they would incur debt until the revenue stream was steady.

A three year extension of its General Obligation Board Authorization by the Local Government Commission expires July 2014.

Morris said by the completion of Phase V, approximately 5,250 customers will be served by the county’s public water system. Phase I was installed in 1984.


About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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