The City of Clinton will have to fork over $2.2 million in relocating utilities along an expanded N.C. 24 within the city limits, and has taken measures to save up the money to pay for it.
This week, the City Council approved a contract between the city and the N.C. Department of Transportation regarding the massive N.C. 24 improvements project that will extend over two counties, to include the relocation of utilities and construction of sidewalks within the city’s municipal limits.
“The engineering report came in and we’re over $2.2 million, so DOT would contract it out, but we would be required to reimburse DOT back the amount for the relocation of the utilities,” said interim city manager Shawn Purvis. “DOT doesn’t do utilities. They’re just going to do the roads, so we would be responsible. We have a lot of water and sewer lines that run under 24, so as they expand the road we will have to relocate some of these lines as well as upgrade.”
Relocating city water and sewer lines along N.C. 24 has an estimated cost of $2,232,061.
The cost for sidewalk installation will be nominal to the city by comparison, as DOT will construct them and shoulder 80 percent of that cost. The total estimated cost of the sidewalks is $312,440, with the cost to the city at $62,490, stretching from Sampson Community College to the Faircloth Freeway overpass. The city would be responsible for maintaining the sidewalks.
Identified by DOT as Project R-2303D in Sampson County, referring to the project’s final currently funded Segment D, the full segment will extend from SR 1303 (Mitchell Loop Road) to U.S. 421-701/SR 1296 (Sunset Avenue). State transportation officials, in the contract, said the relocation of utilities within Clinton must happen before construction begins.
“The municipality, without any cost or liability whatsoever to the (DOT), shall relocate and adjust all municipally-owned utilities in conflict with the project … prior to DOT’s construction of the segment of N.C. 24,” the agreement states. “The municipality shall make every effort to promptly relocate said utilities in order that the (DOT) will not be delayed in the construction of the project.”
Ground is expected to be broken in Sampson later this year.
The overall N.C. 24 widening project proposes a four-lane roadway stretching for 40 miles, from Cumberland County to Interstate 40 near Warsaw, divided by a median and with interchanges constructed at major crossroads. In Sampson, smaller municipalities will be bypassed from the west before returning to the existing roadbed east of Bonnetsville to Coharie Drive. From Coharie Drive to Faircloth Freeway, the existing roadbed will be used for expansion.
Specifically, Segment A extends from west of Maxwell Road/Clinton Road in Cumberland County to John Nunnery Road in Cumberland — the only section of the currently funded ones not at least partially in Sampson. Segment B starts at John Nunnery and goes to Dowdy Road in Sampson.
DOT maintenance engineer Keith Eason said this week that Segment B was let to Barnhill Contracting Co. last week, with the official award hinging on final approval by the Board of Transportation. Eason said that award is usually a formality. The other two segments, C and D, are expected to be let in September as a single “cluster” project.
Segment C extends from Dowdy Road to Mitchell Loop Road, and Segment D includes the section from Mitchell Loop Road along Sunset Avenue to the U.S. 421/701 Bypass (Faircloth Freeway).
“All four sections are expected to be completed in December of 2016,” said Eason.
Two other segments, extending from Sunset Avenue to I-40 in Duplin, are not being funded at this point.
“This is just to relocate utilities within the existing right of way that includes parallel 12-inch water mains on each side of the road. ” said Clinton Public Works director Jeff Vreugdenhil. “We won’t have to tap from one side of the road to the other anymore, and it gives us all the good opportunities we need to loop water lines. It gives us a maximum capability. It will all be new — all the meters, all the hydrants. There will be hydrants on each side of the road, so in the event of a fire, you wouldn’t have to pull a hose across N.C. 24 and stop traffic.”
“And the truth is that we don’t have a choice,” said Mayor Lew Starling said.
“We don’t,” Vreugdenhil concurred.
Paying for it
Purvis noted that the expenditure along N.C. 24 is addressed in the city’s five-year Capital Improvement Plan, outlining funding for large expenses and projects on the horizon — and it is not the only, or largest, project to be undertaken in the near future.
Along with its obligation to bear the cost of constructing and relocating infrastructure for the N.C. 24 expansion, there are also expenditures related to the N.C. 24 Industrial Park infrastructure and the elevated water tank, coming in at a total price tag of $4.9 million.
To ensure funds were ready when needed in the coming years, the City Council voted to create a Capital Reserve Fund for the purpose of completing each of those projects, as well as make continual improvements for the wastewater treatment plant and maintenance of utility lines.
According to the action, all revenues in excess of expenditures realized at the end of any given fiscal year for the Water and Sewer Fund will be credited to unrestricted retained earnings until a goal of between 47-53 percent is realized. Once that goal is reached, revenues in excess of 53 percent will be credited to the Water and Sewer Capital Reserve Fund.
The fund will remain operational for a period not to exceed five years for the projects, beginning July 1 and ending June 30, 2018 or until a cumulative sum not to exceed $5 million has been received.
“It’s three years out,” Purvis said, “and we did address it on the CIP. With the capital reserve and fund balance policies, we will start setting aside money over the next three years to begin to pay that down. We expect the first payment to be late 2015, early 2016.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at email@example.com.