BY STEFANIE JACKSON, Eastern Shore Post —
Exmore’s highly anticipated sewer project will be completed for less than $18.5 million by the Kevcor Contracting Corporation, of Norfolk, the Town Council affirmed by unanimous vote on Monday.
The decision was “a long time coming. Way to go, guys,” Councilman Chase Sturgis congratulated his peers.
Of the five contractor bids that were opened March 22, Kevcor’s was the lowest, with the highest bid nearing $75 million, said Director of Utilities Taylor Dukes.
Even the low bid is higher than town officials prefer, but the roughly $18.4 million project cost is a worst-case scenario, as Kevcor has recommended several cost-saving measures that could potentially save thousands or even $1 million or more.
These measures will be detailed in a “value engineering proposal,” Sturgis said.
Kevcor made three cost-saving recommendations:
n Install the sewer pipes under U.S. Route 13 using a horizontal directional drill instead of the jack and bore method.
The jack and bore method involves digging a pit 40 feet deep on either side of the highway. A boring machine is lowered into the launch pit and bores through the ground where the pipe will run, exiting through the receiving pit on the opposite side.
Horizontal directional drilling would not require 40-foot-deep pits. The drill would bore a hole “about the size of a piece of plywood” through the ground, Dukes said. A standard sheet of plywood is 4 feet wide and 8 feet long.
n Use high-density, plastic pipe fittings instead of iron pipe fittings.
Dukes noted that any iron or steel used on the sewer project must be certified American, and acquiring the certifications involves extra time and cost.
n Simplify the project design on Main Street, where the sewer collection system will cross the road underground to serve Exmore’s administrative offices.
Dukes added that the town also can save money by modifying the specifications on the bid sheet, allowing two different companies to quote prices on the grinder pumps that will be installed at the homes and businesses connected to the sewer system.
The grinder pumps will process sewage into a slurry before transporting it through the collection system to the treatment plant.
Town Manager Robert Duer said that to pay off a previous loan and include a contingency fund to cover unanticipated costs, the sewer project would cost about $21.7 million.
Sturgis asked if Exmore has enough money to complete the project.
“That’s borderline. We’re close,” Duer said. “If all the funding comes through, we’re there.”
He added that the cost will be “much better” with value engineering.
Exmore can move forward with the sewer project after the bid is approved by Bowman, the engineering firm the town employs, and the project’s major funding partners, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.
The town and engineering and contracting firms also must work out the details of the value engineering proposal.
Dukes updated the Town Council on the funding Exmore set aside to connect homes and/or businesses to the new collection system.
The town applied for a grant of $4.2 million from DEQ; a DEQ grant of $3.5 million was included in Virginia’s two-year budget.
Dukes gave the Town Council two options: apply the funds to the cost of connecting every home to the pump station and running the wire to the meter, or divide the money evenly among all Exmore homes and businesses.
The Town Council consented to the first option after Dukes recommended that the funding should benefit homeowners, and businesses should have “skin in the game.”
Mayor Douglas Greer agreed and said the move would ease tensions between the town and homeowners who have working septic systems but are required by the sewer project’s funding partners to connect to the new system.
“I think you ought to take care of Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer,” he said.