Carolina Beach Council Gets Update On Boardwalk Project

Carolina Beach Council Gets Update On Boardwalk Project Featured

By / Local News / Wednesday, 26 August 2015 04:00

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - The Carolina Beach Town Council discussed an upcoming project to relocate overhead utility lines underground in the downtown Boardwalk area during their Tuesday August 25th, workshop meeting.
The project will relocate overhead lines underground to improve the aesthetic appeal of the area. That includes power, phone and cable lines.
Underground conduit has already been installed along Cape Fear Blvd and Canal Drive. Some work was previously   completed on the northern end of the Boardwalk in preparation for the new ocean front Hampton Inn and Suites at 1 Harper Avenue.
Planning for the project began in 2014. Conduits have been installed along Cape Fear Blvd near the Boardwalk and up to 3rd Street. In June Gil DuBois - Director of Public Utilities - updated Council saying, "We've also worked real close with AT&T, Progress Energy, Duke Power and the cable company and right now there are conduits in and we've already looked at some stuff moving forward this fall to get the rest of the stuff on the boardwalk underground."
During the Council's August 25th, meeting Town Manager Michael Cramer explained, "If you remember back in January we talked about going underground with some of the utilities in the boardwalk area. We also discussed how we had to do some improvements to water and sewer and storm water lines in the area of the northern portion... of the boardwalk area. The reason we had to do those was to make affective tie-ins to the Hampton Inn and also to the Canal Drive and Cape Fear Blvd improvements that we were doing in those areas."
He explained, "We came back to you and said that the cost to go and do these types of improvements would be somewhere in the range of $361,000 but we also came up with a creative solution in that case of utilizing the Phase 1A project budget to service some of those needs. This happened back in January of this year. What we ended up doing was replacing water, sewer and storm water and sidewalks in the northern part of the Boardwalk."
Cramer explained a new water line was installed along the back of the Boardwalk on the oceanside and added fire hydrants to the area. That also included replacing the sidewalks in that area. The work was completed prior to the opening of the summer season and a grand opening of the Town's new ocean front wooden walkway.
Cramer explained, "Along with those improvements we also put conduits under the sidewalks so we could pull electrical lines and bring the utilities underground instead of keeping them overhead like that had been. That to was the result of having tight proximity and a lot of overhead lines  trying to get fire trucks in for fire suppression in that area."
He explained the Council requested he come back later with future plans for improvements to the remainder of the Boardwalk.
He said in areas where work had already been performed, "The utilities were put underground. That doesn't mean the overhead utilities have been taken down yet, which they haven't, and we have not reconnected services to the underground lines."
Cramer said a new transformer was installed in the northern area of the Boardwalk and can service approximately eight properties. He said, "We've pulled conduits to each one of the buildings but have not hooked them up yet because it was heading into the season and we didn't want to put them out of power because they were cranking up for the season. Our thought was to come back in the fall and finish connecting the property owners to the lines and remove the existing overhead lines in that area."
He explained the Town has received quotes from Duke Power, AT&T and Charter Cable to relocate lines underground along Cape Fear Blvd and Canal Drive.
He said, "At this point we didn't take anything down, but we did go and put the conduits in underneath the improvements to make sure that if we did decide to go and add in new transformers and put power under there we wouldn't have to re-cut our brand new roads."
Councilman Steve Shuttleworth pointed out the cost for placing the lines underground in that area will be around $486,000 including lighting improvements.
He said in the future he wants Council to consider burying utility lines along Lake Park Blvd and Carolina Beach Avenue North and South, "Because since I've lived here that's the one thing that everyone has said to me time and time again, if we can do anything in the community we should bury the power lines."
Mayor Wilcox said the Town has had conversations over the years ago burying those lines and it's been quite complicated.
DuBois said some business owners have been contacted and work should begin around September 15th to the 21st connecting underground lines to nine properties. He said, "It would be done by contacting each individual property owner to make sure it would not inconvenience them". He said each connection would take about two hours.
Mayor Wilcox said there's a cost to making those connections to underground lines. He said it can sometimes require bringing older electrical connections up to code. Also, if the County electrical inspector requires upgrades or replacement of breaker panels and lines, it can substantially increase the cost.
Wilcox said, "What kind of confidence level do we have and do we have some kind of written agreement in place with the county? This really concerns me because there is a big expense to the owners. To replace a meter base is probably $800 to $1,500 dollars. If you have to go inside to do the breaker panel, add another $1,500 or more to it." He said, "You can go from $800 to $5,000 or $6,000 dollars in owners expense because we are putting power underground. I'm not saying we shouldn't do it, but I think we need to go in with eyes wide open and the second part of that
question, what kind of dialogue have we had with those owners about who is going to be responsible for what expense?"
DuBois said early in the process they contacted the New Hanover County inspections department and, "Each one of those services in that northern quadrant right now meets all of the requirements from the county. So they can be reconnected to where they are currently run to."
Cramer said that determination from the county was for the outside of the building and the inside of a building may require changes.
Cramer explained, "It's approximately $8,500 for us to do the connections to those eight services. That includes a new meter base and everything. The reason the Town would be providing that is because we are the one that tore everything up and to improve that area we are trying to take a stake in it. Our stake in that area would be doing the improvements, paying for the new meter base and connection to the facility. If the owner is required at any point in time to make any corrections inside their building whether it be a panel or anything else, that would be their responsibility to manage."
Shuttleworth asked Cramer if the Town had spoken to the business owners and Cramer said, "Yes, multiple times."
Council member Sarah Friede asked if the Town could document all of the information in a letter to property owners to make sure the details are understood and they know what their responsibility will be.
DuBois said they may have a meeting with property owners to walk around the Boardwalk and explain the project in detail.
Shuttleworth said, "The biggest issue we've run into in the last 20 months with these projects is hitting our time lines" and, "If we start this project I want to know without question that we'll be out of there before Easter next year. I need to be assured we're not going to hear from all of the business owners down there that we've put them out of business for another season because they've had a rough go of it with the work we did do."
DuBois said they will do the work in sections to avoid cutting off access to area businesses and should be done with the overall project within 120 days from October 1st.
Shuttleworth questioned if the contractor could work six days a week to speed up the process. DuBois said they could, but it would increase cost due to overtime pay for workers.
The total project cost is estimated at $752,455 for water, sewer, stormwater and sidewalk improvements including relocating overhead lines underground.
Cramer said he would return with options on financing the project.
Council member Leann Pierce said, "I was going to ask that you do contact the property owners as well as the renters because I'm thinking if a renter calls and says I don't have much money this month, the Town is doing all this work down here and the property owner says 'What?' and the tenant could be gone and that property owner is still dealing with whatever is going on."
She said, "I don't want to hear, 'Nobody told us."
Cramer asked Council if they wanted him to come back at the September 8th, meeting with financing arrangements.
Wilcox said, "Absolutely. I think it would be crazy to tear up the sidewalks... and do this infrastructure without also getting the power underground."

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