Monday, June 24, 2024

Engineering work to begin on Pender County’s 421 utility project

A truck exits the Pender Commerce Park onto U.S. 421. The park's proximity to the highway and to the Cape Fear River, which connects to the Port of Wilmington, is a draw to companies relocating to the area. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)
A truck exits the Pender Commerce Park onto U.S. 421. The board of commissioners approved an engineering contract with McKim & Creed to design extended utility services along this route. (Port City Daily/file)

PENDER COUNTY — The Pender County Board of Commissioners approved Monday a $595,200 engineering contract with Wilmington-based McKim & Creed for the design and permitting of a water and sewer project along U.S. 421. It will extend services in the area and pave the way for future developments. 

Passed unanimously, the contract will begin the process of constructing a new wastewater pump station, force main and water line at the intersection of U.S. 421 and Blueberry Road.

Additionally, the project will install 14,000 linear feet along Blueberry Road and connect to the existing 24-inch main on U.S 421, completing a hydraulic loop of the county’s water system.

“This is a continuation of our efforts over the last several years,” David Piepmeyer said during the meeting. Piepmeyer was elected to commissioner chair Monday evening, after serving on the board for District 2 since 2018. 

“We’ve been focusing on infrastructure – water but also sewer – to better serve our growth and try to stay ahead of the curve,” he said.

RELATED: Pender prepares for major 421 utility extension, continues work on commerce park

Commissioner Fred McCoy echoed this sentiment and said it was “definitely the right direction for Pender County and industrial investment on 421.” 

Tied into the same proposal, the board approved the engineering contract design work for water services to the county-owned former chemical company BASF site, adjacent to Pender Commerce Park.

“It seems appropriate to also include this in this engineering contract due to the urgency to connect this property to utilities services in anticipation of future development of the site,” Kenny Keel, public utilities director, said.

County Manager Chad McEwen at the meeting said this would help create more sites ready for industrial development as incoming tenants max out Pender Commerce Park. Currently, six companies — ACME Smoked Fish, Empire Distributors, FedEx Freight, Coastal Beverage, Polyhose and Colony Tire — utilize the space and utilities running to Commerce Park, with several tracts of land under contract for potential projects.

As this sewer and water line project was not originally funded in the county budget, the county plans to utilize American Rescue Plan funds to complete the engineering work. Pender County received around $12 million in the federal Covid-19 relief money and McEwen said infrastructure improvement is an eligible expense under the stipulations. As a result, the board of commissioners has prioritized this sewer line and water line extension project.

Pender County Utilities Director Kenny Keel also requested a capital project budget ordinance during the meeting to allow funding for this project to continue over the course of multiple fiscal years.

The McKim & Creed contract, proposing about a year of work, includes routing analysis, design and permitting for the project. 

Approximately 1,800 linear feet of 12-inch water main will extend from Quality Way to Vitamin Drive. The new main will connect to the existing main from the county’s Water Treatment Plant and end at Vitamin Way with connections for water to the Pender Commerce Park and a future connection with Cape Fear Public Utilities Authority along U.S. 421.

McKim & Creed, who has worked on prior Pender County projects – including the design and planning for infrastructure in Commerce Park – was chosen amongst six other competing firms’ statements of qualifications. 

Funding for construction of this project is to be determined at a later date.

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