Contingency Account To Fund Project Shortfall

SALISBURY – County officials this week agreed to fund a $255,000 overage for the rehabilitation of the Morris Mill Dam, which was completed earlier this summer.

On Tuesday, the Wicomico County Council voted unanimously to amend its fiscal years 2021-2025 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) and appropriate $255,435 from contingency to fund a project overage for the rehabilitation of the Morris Mill Dam.

“It came from what basically plagued the whole project, poor soils in the dam itself,” Public Works Deputy Director Mark Whitelock told council members earlier this month. “Even after a redesign, we found more problems after the fact.”

The dam, originally constructed in 1946 and later updated in the 1960s, is classified as a high hazard dam based on the downstream damage – including loss of life, property damage and highway flooding – that would result if the dam were to fail.

When work on the dam began in September 2018, it was initially scheduled to be completed in a year. However, water found seeping through the dam shortly after construction began required crews to halt work and redesign the project.

As a result of the project’s redesign, and delays in the construction schedule, construction on the Morris Mill Dam was completed earlier this summer, months behind schedule and millions of dollars more than what was originally projected, officials noted.

“I attended one of the first meetings in Fruitland …,” Councilman John Cannon said earlier this month. “This project was probably $1.5 million, maybe. And it’s increased by millions now.”

Officials also noted the complaints they received from nearby residents. From the project’s start in 2018 until June of this year, traffic from a portion of South Division Street had to be rerouted.

Whitelock told county officials he expected the $255,435 overage to be the last bill for the Morris Mill Dam project. And with no public comments at a hearing this week, the council voted 7-0 to amend the CIP and fund the overage from the county’s contingency account, which will have a little over $1 million remaining for the rest of the fiscal year.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.