Town Manager To Present Options During June 26th Council Meeting For Completing Lake Dredging Project

Town Manager To Present Options During June 26th Council Meeting For Completing Lake Dredging Project

Town Manager To Present Options During June 26th Council Meeting For Completing Lake Dredging Project Featured

By / Local News / Wednesday, 20 June 2018 18:13

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - Carolina Beach Town Manager Michael Cramer will present options during the Town Council's June 26th, workshop meeting for completing a project to dredge the Carolina Beach Lake.

Dredging was suspended August 29th, 2017 when the U.S. Army demanded the Town stop hauling dirt to land leased to the Town since the 1970's for a wastewater treatment plant off Dow Road.  The Town was placing the dirt at an unapproved location on the property. Now the Town is searching for alternate locations.

The Council held a workshop on April 24th to discuss the future of the $2.7 million dollar project to finish dredging the lake as well as the cost of disposing of material already removed from the lake being held on Army property off Dow Road. The Town Council voted unanimously to terminate a contract with Civil Works Contracting to dredge the lake  during their December 12th, meeting.

In October the Town was notified that owners of one alternate location changed their minds about taking on the material following soil tests which showed higher levels of arsenic. That land is located north of Snow's Cut Bridge in the undeveloped portion  of a new residential neighborhood.

During the April 24th, meeting the Council wanted more detailed information on options ranging from leaving the remaining material in the lake, finishing the project, and exploring the use of Town land located north of Snow's Cut Bridge off River Road behind property owned by the U.S. Coast Guard. That plan would require building a road across the Coast Guard property to access the Town's property.

The goal of the project was to make the lake deeper to a consistent depth of 6' to 8' feet and improve capacity to hold approximately 16 million gallons of storm water runoff that has traditionally caused flooding of surrounding properties and roadways. The total volume to be removed from the lake was estimated to be approximately 83,000 cubic yards of material. The original completion date for the project was scheduled for February 9th, 2018. When the project was suspended August 29th, the contractor had removed approximately 30,000 cubic yards of material to the wastewater treatment plant.

On Monday June 11th, Cramer updated Council explaining that in April the Council gave him direction to research completing the project and removing the remaining soil from the lake.

Cramer explained, "That option suggested that the cost of such a project would be between $2.2 million and $4 million dollars depending on the location we dispose of the soil. Council also directed that I discuss this option with some contractors and develop a revised budget that may be closer to the true cost of the project. This has not been an easy task. Contractors are reluctant to give us any budget or order of magnitude numbers for the project. Primarily the reasoning involved not knowing the terms and conditions for the contract, the reduction in volume, the change in the disposal site and hauling requirements, and the additional work of constructing an access road and the clearing and grading required to prepare the disposal site which was not part of the original project. These are all items that need to be solidified before we can produce a formal bid."

He explained, "It would seem the most accurate information we have right now are the previous bids. [Above] are the per cubic yard costs that we received during our previous bidding process. We have approximately 50,480 cubic yards of material to remove from the lake."

He explained, "We have received one estimate from another contractor that suggested a $36.00 cubic yard cost.  Please keep in mind that these costs do not include building the access road, clearing or grubbing the property, permits, surveying or engineering required for the disposal site. I have requested some budget numbers for building the access road and clearing and grubbing the property and should have those numbers soon.  Permits is expected to cost $5,000 and the survey and engineering work for the entire project is anticipated at $115,000."

Cramer explained, "Following the April 24th workshop, I sent the Environmental Report for the town owned property behind the US Coast Guard LORAN station to the Coast Guard and requested an easement through their property to our property. The Coast Guard will not give a permanent easement across their property, but are willing to give a temporary access for the project. The access easement would be approximately 2,800 feet long and 50 ft wide.  In this easement the town would need to develop a road to transport trucks to our property.  The access road would be approximately 20 ft wide and will require some fence and gate installation as required by the Coast Guard.  I have contacted our Coast Guard representative weekly since sending the required documents to them for review. The report has been forwarded on to their environmental division for review and approval. The environmental division has no specific timeline for when the review may be complete, but I have stressed the urgency of the situation.  Once the environmental review is complete the easement may need to be surveyed, easement documents will need to be drafted and signed by both parties.  As soon as we get a tentative approval from the Coast Guard we can contract with SEPI Engineering to begin the surveying of our property to determine the exact amount of material that could be placed on site and  develop the permits required to permit the facility."

He explained, "It is at this point we will have enough information to update the plans and specs and go out for formal bids.  Right now we are at the mercy of the Coast Guard and their timelines.  There is one way that I could expedite the project.  I could contract with SEPI to perform the survey work related to the easement and our property before we get approval from the Coast Guard. That is risky, since we will be spending funds on a location that we might not get access too. However, if we don’t get a formal bid out in July and get return bids by August it will be unlikely we will be able to get the project moving in November. If I contract with SEPI it will cost approximately $37,785, which would come out of the $1,458,898 remaining for the project."

Cramer asked Council members to give him feedback on how to proceed and explained, "Although we are not able to get solid numbers from the contractors, I think it is important that we spend the $37,785 on the surveying, engineers and bid spec prep now so that we do not continue to slow down the project."

During the Council's June 12th, meeting Nan Toppin spoke addressed the Council with concerns about the dredging project.

Toppin explained:
Mayor Benson and members of council, I am coming to you tonight from a place of concern.  For several months I have been seeking information from our town manager in an attempt to better understand the lake dredging project, which was terminated in January 2017 prior to it’s completion.  I spent several hours in attendance at the Council Workshop in April hoping to get some of my questions answered and was disappointed in the lack executable options provided to Council and shared with the public.  The four options presented had not been fleshed out to a point where any decisions could even be entertained by council.  I have not seen any information made public since that time, which was close to two months ago.
The project was undertaken because it was the determination of our council that there was a critical need to mitigate flooding risk to our residents.
Fast forward to today and we have a project that has not seen any progress since August of 2017…almost a year ago when it was suspended.
The intent was to remove 83 thousand cubic feet of sediment from the lake, yet only 32 thousand cubic feet was removed.  The intent was to provide an additional 16 million gallons of storage capacity yet capacity was provided for only 6 million gallons.  The intent was to dredge the lake to a depth of 6 feet yet over half of the lake is still at a depth of 18 inches.    Clearly we did not accomplish the risk mitigation we intended for our residents.  Yet we spent over 1.4 million dollars, that the town manager can account for…I have some personal heartburn with the inability of anyone to provide anything other than outside services costs for the project as those are not representative of the time that town staff spent on this project vs. on other projects which would also benefit our town but I am  not planning to address that issue tonight.
It’s important that we don’t lose sight of the Remediation Costs for the tasks that we are required to take to remove the spoils from MOTSU property—these are sunk costs, meaning they are non recoverable.  MOTSU communicated their requirements for the removal of the 37,000 cubic feet of material from the their property back in Nov of 2017.   Yet we don’t have a plan for how to handle the removal or the associated costs.
The first step involves moving the material from it’s current location to the location approved by MOTSU as part of the town’s original agreement for spoils removal.  I would like to request that you ask for an estimated cost for this step within the next 30 days.  All information required to arrive at this cost estimate is currently known by our town manager—he knows the distance between the current and required location and the amount of material.    He has indicated previously that there is no cost associated with this step and that is simply not true.  While the most logical plan will be to leverage town staff and town equipment to perform this rework resulting in no incremental costs impacting the town budget, the taxpayer will pay for this work to be performed.  Given that other critical work that was planned for these town employees will now be deprioritized or cancelled in order to address this issue, I think it’s reasonable to ask for an assessment of the impact to other projects as these resources are realigned. 
The second step is to permanently remove the spoils from MOTSU property within 3-5 years.   I appreciate that it’s the intent to use as much of this material as possible as fill for other projects, either town projects or private projects, which is a good option…but it’s risky to assume that in 3-5 years all of this material will have been repurposed and there will be no cost incurred by the taxpayer to permanently relocate the spoils…so I would like to request a risk mitigation strategy for removing this material.   As the amount of material decreases due to it’s repurpose, the estimate should be updated…the expectation is that a current estimate is always available.  This will ensure that we aren’t surprised with any costs at the end of our lease.
Rework is always costly and counterproductive to the taxpayer. 
I would also like to request that you publicly provide strict guidance to town staff that nothing else be dumped on MOTSU land without written permission from our town council.  We have a history of previous and current town staff making costly judgment errors resulting in improper dumping on this property and it simply needs to stop.
While 4 options were presented to you during the April workshop for consideration, again with no real planning around them…there are in reality only two options…to move complete the project and achieve the risk mitigation from flooding that we set out to provide for our residents or to leave the lake as it is today.
I would like to ask that the town council request that town staff come back with a fully vetted plan for the continuation of the project within the next 30 days.  The disposal of the material on the Loran Station property appears to be the only option we have on the table right now…I don’t think anyone wants to create a giant pile of spoils out in the lake…and the “working theory” on the part of the town manager that just moving the spoils around will diffuse the arsenic particles to the point that they will be immeasurable, is also not a viable option.  This is the “soil blending” option.   It would be incredibly irresponsible for the town council to make a decision based on a working theory that is not supported by any environmental science.
To recap, here are my asks of you:
--Town staff to provide the cost of the first step of remediation to be provided to council and the public within 30 days.  Once the new lease is provided by MOTSU and the removal can begin, I would ask that the public also be made aware of the impact this work will have on other ongoing projects.
--That a risk mitigation strategy be put in place for permanent remediation of the inappropriate dumping so that any costs that we might incur are well known and planned for.
--That Council direct town staff that no further dumping be done on MOTSU property without written permission from Council
--That Council direct town staff to come back within 30 days with a fully vetted plan, including costs, to complete the lake dredging project as it was originally scoped.
There is simply no way we can move forward with a decision on this project without this work being done…
Respectfully, I would appreciate your consideration of my asks so that we can resolve this issue once and for all.
Lastly, I would like to express my disappointment as a resident that a project this critical to our residents, undertaken with the intent to protect homes and businesses, has ended up where it is today.

During the Council's Tuesday June 12th, meeting, Council requested Cramer bring the issue to their June 26th, workshop meeting to examine the costs and hold a public hearing at their July regular meeting.

According to the agenda published Tuesday June 19th, Cramer will offer options that would include dealing with the dredge material already placed on Army property both in the short term on site and total removal from that property within three to five years.

Cramer will also present options and cost estimates for completing the dredging project and placing the remaining material on the Town property located next to the Coast Guard property as well as giving away or selling some of the material to area contractors.

Cramer said Monday that some of the dredge material has already been removed from the Army property and used for a new Island Greenway project that includes an asphalt bike and pedestrian path on Army property leading from Mike Chappel Park on Dow Road south to Alabama Avenue on the border of neighboring Kure Beach. He said the Army approved use of the dredge dirt in constructing the path and that using that material saved the Town approximately $42,000 for the overall project cost.

The total estimated cost to build a temporary road across the Coast Guard property to the Town's land off River Road north of Snow's Cut Bridge is estimated at $186,673. The total estimated cost to compete excavation of the remaining material in the lake, including development of the disposal site, engineering and excavation, is $1,612,558 to $2,520,693.

One short term option approved by the Army is to move material already on the property from one location to another location on the property that was previously approved as a brown field for disposal. The material would still have to be removed within three to five years. Cramer explained Tuesday June 19th, that cost could be as low as $60,000 after he recently spoke to a contractor that expressed a desire to buy the dirt from the Town.

The total estimated cost for removal of the remaining dirt on the property and completing the project ranges from $3,146,198 to $4,054,333. Cramer said the difference is due to reluctance of contractors to give firm cost figures because of the time-frame and other logistics.

The options will be presented during the Council's June 26th, workshop meeting at 6pm at Town Hall in the Council meeting room. To view more details about the proposal, click here to view the agenda for the workshop meeting...

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