Now entering its seventh year, the process of replacing Waynesville’s outdated sewage treatment plant has become a frustrating saga that only gets more nerve-wracking — and expensive — the longer it drags on.
With that in mind, aldermen awarded the contract to build the project last Tuesday, fearing the price could continue to rise if they wait any longer.
“As everyone knows, prices tend to go up, and I’m not ready to play to see if they will actually go down. Prices for everything have continued to soar, including steel,” Alderman Anthony Sutton said “I’m just thrilled the project is starting to move forward and can’t wait for it to be completed in about 18 to 20 months.”
In late 2017, utility consulting firm UTEC told then-mayor Gavin Brown and the council of aldermen that it would cost $5 or $6 million to extend the life of the failing facility. 5 to 10 years, or approximately $19 million for a brand new installation. .
Back then, staff sitting in the factory office had to physically check every step of the processing process to make sure it was working, as the factory, built in 1965, has an archaic electrical and control system. .
Some factory components are so old that they can no longer be replaced with new parts. City staff therefore had to order used parts from the Internet. Safety issues such as failing walls and railings were also an imminent accident.
Later in 2017, the city sought a second opinion from another engineering firm. This report, from McGill and Associates, largely supports the costs and options outlined in the UTEC report.
Technically, the project was approved by the current council of aldermen, who were sworn in in December 2019, although the previous council led by Mayor Gavin Brown had a heavy hand over its planning.
The subsequent outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic obstructed the process; however, in a stroke of luck, the city had secured a $19.4 million, 26-year, interest-free loan for the project from a state fund.
Last January, the city subsequently encountered a stroke of bad luck – the price of the project amounted to 28.4 million dollars.
In May, the state increased the amount of the $19 million interest-free loan from $5 million, but even though economic changes to the plant design were factored into the cost, prices went up. continued to increase.
On July 18, the lowest bidder, Harper Construction of Greenville, South Carolina, offered a final price of $29.6 million, leaving the city with an unfunded construction cost of $5.1 million.
At a July 26 council of aldermen meeting, City Manager Rob Hites gave aldermen the choice to formally accept the $29.6 million proposal or wait to see if prices might start to come down. .
“Given the rising cost of concrete and steel, we believe it is prudent to award the contract to Harper Construction and bring the project under contract and under construction rather than relaunch the project,” Hites wrote in the agenda summary. The aldermen agreed.
“Unfortunately the prices have gone up, but it’s a necessary thing going forward,” Sutton said. “I believe we are on the right track now. The $5 million that I think we will get, we can fill that gap either with grants or by taking funds from other sources to fill that gap.
The city was ineligible for a U.S. bailout infrastructure grant because “it was not distressed enough,” according to Hites, but it could reapply in the fall.
Hites said he could expect the project to open as early as November and that the project’s first payment would not be due until December or January, which would give the city time to write a request for quotations for the Credit institutions.