Sunday, February 25, 2024

Leland awards $4.3 million for sewer expansion projects on tight timeline

Phases seven and eight in Brunswick Forest include extending public utilities across the military’s rail line at Kay Todd Road. In the background, Highway 17 is visible. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna Ferebee)

BRUNSWICK COUNTY — The Town of Leland agreed to spend a combined $4,376,019.60 on two wastewater expansion projects at a special meeting earlier this week. The projects are being fast-tracked in order to meet incentive-based development agreement deadlines for recently annexed projects.

The substantial investment will extend the town’s wastewater service beyond the town’s current westernmost utility boundaries in Brunswick Forest south of Highway 17.

To date, the town has obligated itself to $4.96 million, investing in three wastewater expansion projects. Planning for the projects began in June 2018, before developments that would be served by the expansion submitted voluntary annexation petitions to join town limits. Two of these projects are on a late May 2020 completion deadline while the third has not yet been put out to bid.

In all, developments serviced by the town’s recent wastewater expansion investment are projected to add thousands of new residents and greatly increase the sales and property tax base in Leland.

Three projects, two moving quickly

The three wastewater expansion projects include:

  • Regional Pump Station No. 33: a Brunswick Forest pump station to be built west of the rail line with force mains to connect to town’s existing infrastructure
  • Hazels Branch Road lift station (expansion II, phase 1): connects the new Brunswick Forest pump station to Bishops Ridge. The developer is building the lift station itself.
  • Old Town Creek lift station (expansion II, phase 2): connects the new Hazels Branch Road lift station with a planned lift station off Old Town Creek. Leland recently submitted an offer to acquire property where the lift station is planned.

Leland Town Council convened for a special meeting Monday to award construction contracts for two of the projects that will extend wastewater infrastructure west along Highway 17 (No. 33 and expansion II, phase 1).

The third project, which has not yet been put out to bid, will cross north under the highway to serve a future project off Old Town Creek Road. Leland has not yet annexed property off Old Town Creek Road, however, it approved a Memorandum of Understanding in September to provide wastewater service in exchange for the developer’s voluntary annexation petition.

Jeff Earp, developer and president of Brunswick Forest, owns 287-acres off Old Town Creek and intends to build a single-family residential development on the property. A 1-acre parcel located where Old Town Creek curbs is currently under contract; in November, Leland Town Council approved offering the owner $44,900 to acquire the property to build a pump station to service Earp’s development. The parcel is located about 1.5 miles south of the town’s next-nearest satellite town limits in Grayson Park.

View an interactive map of the projects below; click icons for project details. Note: the $5 million figure does not include incentive amounts, which are being funded separately:

Tight timeline

Both wastewater projects awarded construction funds this week include liquidated damages (a $500 daily fine for every day after the deadline) for the contractors, each given a 180-day timeline.

In incentive-based economic development agreements approved earlier this year, the town agreed to provide wastewater service to two projects: Hawthorne at Waterside (adjacent to Brunswick Forest — promised $525,000 in incentives) and Bishops Ridge (off Hazels Branch Road — promised $100,000 in incentives). Incentives will be funded from system development fees, which are fees developers pay to connect to a utility’s existing wastewater system.

These development agreements set a sewer service availability deadline of May 31, 2020.

To meet this deadline, contractors must substantially complete work within 150 days and complete all work within 180 days to avoid damages and allow the town to meet its obligations.

Less than 180 days (173 to be exact) span between the town’s spring deadline to provide sewer service from the date Council approved the contracts, Monday, Dec. 10, 2019 (this does not represent the start date; as of Monday, the town had not yet determined start dates for the contracts).

In recent months, the town has cited concerns in interdepartmental reports, noting the possibility of not meeting delivery dates contained these development agreements on time. 

If the wastewater projects aren’t completed by the deadline, the town has provisions in place to accommodate the new developments. So what’s the backup plan?

“It’s called pump and haul,” Gary Vidmar, the town’s Economic and Community Development Director, said after the meeting Monday. “So literally you collect the sewage in a pit like a septic tank and you put it into a truck and haul it out to the wastewater treatment plant.”

Vidmar is confident the projects will be completed on time because they are tied to liquidated damages. However, should the town find itself in a pump and haul scenario, Vidmar acknowledged: “That’s not ideal. It can be done. And that’s what we would do.”

Awards

Absent a merger agreement with Brunswick Regional Water and Sewer H2GO, Leland continues to move ahead with its own infrastructure expansion plans (this summer, talks were in place to combine the systems under H2GO, but fell apart before November’s election).

Both developments with wastewater service deadlines previously considered wastewater service that could have been provided by H2GO; the utility already provides service in those areas and the town was previously considering a connection point for both projects.

Funding for town wastewater projects originates from its Public Utility Enterprise Fund. Construction contracts will likely be funded through loans; Leland Council approved seeking permission from the Local Government Commission to take out a multi-year loan for the projects at its Nov. 21 regular meeting. The town set aside a combined $5.5 million in loan proceeds to capital project funds to finance the projects.

Funston Land and Timber, LLC, was awarded $2.7 million to complete the wastewater project that will service phases seven and eight in Brunswick Forest and Hawthorne Waterside.

Monday, Leland Town Council voted to award a $2.7 million wastewater construction contract to the developer of Brunswick Forest, Funston Land and Timber, to build out two additional phases of the community.

In addition to being awarded the utility contract, Funston Land and Timber will also receive between $2.6 million and $3.3 million in economic incentives related to the same expansion project for phases seven and eight in Brunswick Forest.

Brunswick Forest has added nearly $1 billion in tax base to the town, situated in the nation’s fourth-fastest and the state’s fastest-growing county.

At the meeting, the town also awarded a $1.49 million contract to Carmichael Construction Company to complete the Hazels Branch end of the wastewater expansion.

Both projects were initially bid in October. The lowest bidder for the Brunswick Forest pump station, Funston, filled out an incorrect form, rendering the bid non-responsive. The town chose to reject all five bids for the project and re-bid it.

To prevent a potentially unfair advantage for the Hazels Branch project, the town also rejected all bids for the project and re-bid it though none of the prospective clients incorrectly submitted bids.

After the second round of bidding, two contractors chose not to re-bid on the Brunswick Forest project. Funston filled out the form correctly and remained the lowest bidder.

View a breakdown of the projects below:


Pump Station No. 33Expansion II, Phase 1Expansion II, Phase 2
Description of projectConstruct a lift station in Brunswick Forest west of rail lineConnect No. 33 to new lift station off Hazels Branch Road in Bishops BranchCross under highway to connect Bishops Branch to Old Town Creek. Town made $44,900 offer to acquire property for LS.
Spent on engineering$328,070$271,925$136,575
EngineerHanover DesignWithersRavenalWithersRavenal
Awarded for construction$2,692,677.60$1,490,143Not yet bid (town estimate $3.95M)
ContractorFunstonCarmichaelNot yet bid
Total per project$3,020,747.60$1,762,068$181,475
Total 

$4,964,290.60

Above calculations include two change orders at $88,200 each for Hanover Design and one $105,000 change order for Withers Ravenal.


Send tips and comments to Johanna Ferebee at johanna@localvoicemedia.com

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