Rebholz: County “jumped in and took over” waterline project

Published 3:08 pm Friday, July 15, 2022

At their regular meeting on Tuesday, July 5, the commissioners voted 5-2 to pay for a waterline extension project at Swan Point mobile home park even though the landowner agreed to pay for the project in full. 


This is a project Public Works has attempted to bring to fruition since 2018, Director of Beaufort County Public Works Christina Smith shared at the meeting. 


In 2021, the Swan Point landowner agreed to pay the cost of installing the waterline, but $187,000 was appropriated by the county, Smith said. The money will come from American Rescue Plan funds. 


This would pay for a contractor to provide a main waterline, a service line from main to the meter then install the meter box. The tenant or owner of the property would be responsible for connecting from the new meter to the existing dwelling. Smith said the existing well system will be disconnected. 


(An additional $23,000 for engineering was not included in the initial cost. The county encumbered the cost. An invoice from the engineer will not be sent to the county until a contract has been awarded. The engineering work was “done in faith,” Smith said.)


Since 2021, the overall project budget has increased to $289,543. The cost of construction increased, because according to Smith, the extension was designed and advertised to bidders; however, bids were higher than expected. Building the waterline extension became more expensive when the price of materials increased; therefore the cost to build increased and is higher than in 2018. The price of materials like PVC pipe and fittings needed for waterline extensions are “volatile” right now, she described. Also, the change orders cannot be predetermined which means the cost of the project could be higher or lower than anticipated. 


Any products made with petroleum like PVC do not have a set price until manufacturing of the products is complete and the products are loaded onto delivery trucks. The cost is not revealed until a customer has a packing slip or shipping order, Smith explained. 


Commissioner John Rebholz noted that the landowner agreed to pay for the project, but then the county “decided to go ahead and pay for it instead.” 


“So we just jumped in and took over,” Rebholz asked. The county commissioners knew the landowner was willing to pay for the project when they approved allocating $187,000 for the waterline extension. 


Chairman Frankie Waters expressed disappointment in the extension project saying Swan Point’s landowner needs “more skin in the game,” or in other words, they need to pay a portion of the construction costs. Payment would only fall to the landowner, not Swan Point residents.  


“I can’t support the increase and the county picking up all of it. I mean, to me, the landowner needs to have some skin in the game,” Waters said.  


The commissioners voted to pay the initial cost of $187,000 but any additional costs would be paid by the landowner.