BERLIN — The first steps toward stormwater infrastructure improvements in Berlin were taken this week when the Town Council approved just over $200,000 be given to EA Engineering for providing impervious surface data for properties in town as well as for design work on the first four stormwater projects.
The lion’s share of that cost, roughly $197,000, is being given to EA Engineering for design work on priority projects. While discussion on establishing a stormwater utility was still underway, the council designated several street improvement projects spread out over the next few years.
The first year’s work will be split into four sections or “tasks.” Task 1 will be Graham, Grice and Nelson avenues at a cost of $53,000. Task 2 is West Street near Abbey Lane for $49,000 and Task 3 will be Williams Street near the electrical plant for $47,000. The final task, which the town is giving top billing, is Hudson Branch at Flower and Showell streets for $48,000.
“One of the things that we emphasized to EA is that the Flower Street Project is going to be a priority,” said Town Administrator Tony Carson, “and the reason is because CDBG [Community Development Block Grants] funding is going to become available. Their cycle will be in the next couple of months. So our emphasis is trying to get it to the point where we can apply for CDBG money for Flower Street.”
It should be noted that EA will only be doing the design work for the projects and that construction will come separately. Mayor Gee Williams asked about a timeline for when actual construction on the street improvements might begin.
“Basically we’re talking about not this building season but next building season?” he asked.
Water Resource Director Jane Kreiter confirmed that the town will have to skip a season and should most likely expect shovels in the ground around June 2014. Permitting, explained Kreiter, is a lengthy process with stormwater cases.
“As we’ve discussed before, the permitting is quite an inglorious endeavor,” she said.
That delay isn’t necessarily a bad thing, according to Williams.
“So that gives us more than adequate time to properly maximize our grants and also gives us a year, basically, to get all of that lined up,” he said.
Besides the four street improvement projects, the engineering firm will also receive $5,990 from the town to provide data on impervious surfaces in the area. The information will then be used to determine the fees for non-residential properties paying into the stormwater utility, since those costs are based on ERUs.
Unlike with the projects, which were directly contracted with EA, the impervious data collection was bid out. EA won the process with their bid of $5,990 which was dramatically lower than the $28,200 bid by Davis, Bowen and Friedel and the $39,000 bid by the Atlantic Group.
Councilman Dean Burrell remarked after hearing the bids that he was confused by the discrepancy between EA and its competitors.
“That’s a big number,” he said.
Carson agreed but confirmed that the figure produced by EA fell in line with what the town was expecting.
“I think the $6,000 number is more in line with what it should have cost,” he said.
It was strange that the numbers were so different, admitted Carson, but he told the council that he couldn’t “speak to why the other two are so high.”
However, the town already has a strong enough grasp on approximate data that it should be able to confirm all of EA’s findings, so that there shouldn’t be any discrepancies, said Carson. Property owners who feel their impervious surfaces were misevaluated will also have the option to appeal the estimates to the town.