S.P. Reservoir Should Be Ready by Spring
Southern Pines officials hope to begin filling the town's new 140-million-gallon water reservoir by next spring so state-mandated water conservation efforts can be avoided during dry spells and droughts.
"Even if the reservoir isn't filled to capacity by next summer, we're still going to have plenty of water to handle any drought conditions," Town Council member Mike Fields said Tuesday. "The reservoir is designed to hold more than a 30-day supply of water for the town even if we don't use a drop."
The 36-acre reservoir is being constructed next to the town's water treatment plant on Drowning Creek southwest of Pinebluff.
The Town Council learned Monday at its monthly work session that the general contractor - Atwell Construction of Greenville - is seeking seven change orders that would add $190,000 to the final cost.
Fred Hobbs, a principal at Hobbs, Upchurch and Associates in Southern Pines, said his firm will deny many of the change orders, meaning that they will end up in dispute resolution. Hobbs added that weekly construction update meetings recently instituted by Atwell officials have resolved any miscommunication.
"The right hand didn't know what the left hand was doing, but we're starting to get answers now," Hobbs said. "The goal is to start filling the reservoir by mid-January. I think we can fill it up by the end of the spring season."
The project was initially budgeted for $3.2 million, but permitting delays and engineering changes have boosted that figure to $4.6 million.
"We had to use an expensive liner, which drove the cost up," Fields said. "But from a safety perspective, we need to do things right. It's disappointing that we have had more costs, but now we need to focus on getting the project finished.
"We've survived and we're moving on. Hopefully, we'll never have to have those restrictions again."
Southern Pines residents had to restrict their water use twice last summer when the state issued mandatory water conservation orders after Drowning Creek's water flow dropped below acceptable levels. The town also sells water to Whispering Pines, Camp Mackall and Moore County utilities customers in Pinehurst.
Council member Chris Smithson said during the work session that he was not happy about the construction delays and cost increases.
"We were supposed to have it this past summer," Smithson said. "I'm not going to express anything right now except my extreme disappointment at how this whole process is going."
Hobbs told Smithson that his feelings had not fallen on deaf ears.
"I hear your concern, and I share your concern," Hobbs said. "The contractor has been working seven days a week lately."
The project, which was initially scheduled for completion last December, was delayed during the permitting process by environmental restrictions imposed by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Hobbs said those restrictions included mitigating potential water discharge damage to downstream aquatic life that doesn't exist because the tributary is dry at least three months a year.
"Ludicrous is the kindest word I can use for the permitting process," Hobbs said.
Town Manager Reagan Parsons said the completion date was updated once the state permitting process was finished.
"The process delayed letting of the bid documents. Once a construction contract was in place with Atwell, we had a completion date of mid-October this year," Parsons said. "We're not going to hit it, but we're not going to be that far off."
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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