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Water pipe project proving to be costly in Berkeley Springs

December 07, 2006|by TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - The water pipe replacement project under way in the Town of Bath will cost an estimated $2,487,000, which increased from an original estimate of $1.85 million.

The pipes in the century-old water system lose more than 50 percent of the water going through them and need to be replaced, officials have said.

Kevin Hancock, superintendent of Berkeley Springs Water Works, the town-owned water department, said several issues have contributed to the project's cost increase, including delays in getting it started. One delay was a filtration system to protect surface water that first had to be installed at the water plant after the Clean Water Act became federal law.

The filtration system was completed in 2003, he said.

When the town opened the bidding process for the project last spring, the lowest bid that came in was $2.8 million, so the town had to make some cost adjustments to the project, said Town of Bath Councilman David Crosby, who chairs the town's finance committee.

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Councilwoman and finance committee member Garnet Marsh said one of the adjustments made was in the pipe material from all copper to a high-quality plastic, she said, which cut the cost.

Also, state-maintained roads had certain requirements which were renegotiated, Marsh said.

Any trench that was dug has to be refilled with an expensive "flowable fill," so the town eliminated those costs by moving the pipes off the roads and onto the sidewalks where possible.

"The DOH (West Virginia Department of Highways) has been very cooperative to work with," she said.

Cowgirl Up, the contractor hired for the pipe replacement project, won the second round of bidding in late summer with a cost of about $2.1 million. Thrasher Engineering, the company hired to oversee the project, will receive about $200,000, Crosby said. A contingency fund is available for cost overruns, he said.

Because of the increased cost, the town borrowed an additional $637,000 from the West Virginia Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council, said Hancock, and is floating bonds for the project through the W.Va. Economic Infrastructure Bond Fund.

The project began in September and about 25 percent of the main pipeline has been installed, Brian Martin, project inspector for Thrasher Engineering, said at a recent town council meeting.

New lines are installed on north U.S. 522 to the Berkeley Springs Moose Lodge No. 1483; on Wilkes Street from St. George to Fairfax St.; and on Fairfax St. to U.S. 522, Crosby said.

The contractor is working on U.S. 522 south from Fairfax Street to the Country Inn, Crosby said, and will continue all the way to Martinsburg Road (W.Va. 9).

U.S. 522, Wilkes and Fairfax streets are maintained by the DOH, Hancock said. Paving is be done by the state on U.S. 522 and Wilkes Street, and the pipe replacement was done first on those streets for that reason.

Hancock said the contractor intends to work through the winter and next will work on streets on the east side of U.S. 522.

The estimated completion date is July 2007, Martin has said.

The pipe replacements on streets south of W.Va. 9 will be done in the next phase and will be under another pipe replacement project, Hancock said.

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