Council awards drainage contract

Published 4:29 am Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Staff Writer

In a vote described by the city’s top elected official as “one of the most important things” the city has done in recent years, the Washington City Council on Monday awarded the contract for three drainage projects and approved the purchase of some $5 million in bonds to finance the project.
Washington Mayor Archie Jennings praised the move, saying the $5,040,000 in Recovery Zone Economic Development Bonds gives the city “a low-interest opportunity to have a meaningful impact on people’s lives.”
“This is probably one of the most important things we have done in many, many years,” he said in an interview after the meeting.
The project consists of storm draining improvements as follows:
• The Airport Canal drainage area from Minuteman Lane to Whispering Pines Road including the replacement of culverts in the area;
• Changes to allow more water storage capacity in Jack’s Creek along with the demolition of some properties in the drainage area, and
•Drainage improvements in Smallwood including drainage work from the Keysville Road to Rowan Place and Northwood Road.
The storm drainage projects should help reduce the frequency and duration of flooding in these areas during times of rapid rainfall, according to Allen Lewis, public works director.
The council unanimously awarded the contract for the work to T.A. Loving Co., of Goldsboro and Morrisville, which submitted the low bid of $3,500,774 for the work not including the Northwood Road area. 
After much discussion, the council unanimously approved expansion of the project to include that area at a total cost not to exceed $4 million.
In related action, the council also unanimously approved the purchase of the Recovery Zone Economic Development Bonds to pay for the storm drainage improvements. The bond purchase also includes $42,000 to replace the roof on Fire Station No. 1.
In addition, the bonds will be used to pay for engineering work, permits needed for the project and the demolition of buildings in the Jack’s Creek drainage area, the council was told.
City Manger Jim Smith said the council’s decision was historic.
“This is the largest and most important drainage project that has ever been done in the history of the city,” Smith said after the vote giving the go-ahead to the project.
In other business, the council:
• voted 4-1 to approve a plan to hire a load management technician at a salary ranging from $29,041 to $42,981 to install load management switches as part of the city’s effort to reduce electrical demand. This position was included in the $300,000 budget for the load management project, according to Keith Hardt, city electric director. Councilman Doug Mercer cast the sole dissenting vote.
• unanimously approved purchase orders for $40,000 from the Mid-East Commission for grant administration for the sewer project and $35,296.42 from C.W. Wright Construction Co. for utility relocation on U.S. Highway 17.
• unanimously approved a management services contract in the amount of $32,000 with The Soundside Group of Plymouth for information technology management. Ray Midgett, the city’s information technology director, plans to retire Dec. 31. The city will use management services provided by Soundside instead of hiring a replacement for Harris. The city anticipates annual savings of more than $22,000 with the move, the council was told.
• voted unanimously to accept a $12,852 Edward Bryne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant that will be used to pay for police gear including uniforms, badges and holsters. The grants are designed to help local governments combat violence against women, fight Internet crimes against children and support youth mentoring, among other activities, the council was told.
• voted unanimously to appropriate $10,000 for part-time salaries at the George H. and Laura E. Brown Library to expand library hours to include Sundays from 1 to 6 p.m.
• unanimously approved a budget ordinance to reimburse the Washington Harbor District Alliance $3,000 for the purchase of LED lights for all of the trees on Main Street in downtown Washington.
• heard a report on a proposal to change the city’s salary schedule that would affect 21 employees and agreed with a proposal submitted by Susan Hodges, human resources director, to delay its implementation until the 2011-2012 fiscal year. Under the plan, salary ranges for city positions will increase from a 48 percent spread to a 50 percent spread from the beginning rate to the maximum salary.
• unanimously approved a water shortage response plan that would be implemented in an effort to conserve water in the event of a drought. The council was told that during the dry spell the city experienced a few years ago, it did not come close to the triggers that would have required any mandatory reductions in water use outlined in the plan.
• unanimously approved an insurance policy that stipulates all claims filed with respect to the city’s electric system will be adjusted in the same manner as all other claims made against the city.
• unanimously adopted a resolution of support to apply for a $36,000 planning grant application to the N.C. Department of Transportation for a bicycle comprehensive plan.
• delayed action on a waterfront docking agreement for the River Rover at the N.C. Estuarium.
• delayed action on adoption of a code of ethics for the city council and the City of Washington. State statute requires each municipality, county, local board of education and other governing bodies to adopt such a code by Jan. 1, 2011.
• referred a presentation by E-Dux, a home energy management and utility services company, to the city’s Electric Utilities Advisory Board.
All city council members attended the meeting.
“This is the largest and most important drainage project that has ever been done in the history of the city.” Jim Smith, Washington city manager