PITTSBORO — Town commissioners heard updates regarding the Sanford Force Main wastewater project and voted to hire legal counsel to move forward with an interlocal agreement with the city of Sanford at the board’s meeting Monday.
Town Engineer Kent Jackson said the town approved staff to start selecting bids for two construction contracts for a wastewater systems improvements project, referred to as the Sanford Force Main project. Jackson said the town received two bids in November — one bid for the contract regarding laying down more than 67,000 feet of force main pipes and another for modifications to the town’s wastewater treatment plant.
“As we received those bids, we were quite shocked at the numbers,” Jackson said. “For the line work contract, the low bid was $39.6 million and for the plant work contract, the low bid was $15.5 million.”
Once receiving bids, the town entered a 90-day negotiating period with contractors to discuss costs for each of the projects. That period ended on Feb. 8, and Jackson said only one of the two contracts granted a written extension to discuss project costs; the town will have to restart the bidding process for the wastewater plant contract.
“The contractors had agreed to the terms of the bid, which holds the prices in order for the town to move forward with contract reward and actual contract execution,” Jackson said. “In the time that’s passed, we’ve been working on a number of fronts to identify funding and finance plans for these two contracts.”
Both projects ended up being more costly than town staff originally expected, according to Jackson. The force main project’s estimated cost is around $44 million for the contract, other fees and expenses.
Jackson said he and his staff met with local officials and state representatives to explain the unique situation Pittsboro finds itself in with the funds for the contracts. They’ve also been in contact with Chatham Park Investors, and they’re working to find a way to “fund the gap.”
“Identifying the funding is still a challenge,” Jackson said. “As we stand today, we have $37 million in loans, through the state revolvement fund against the $44 million project costs … we’ve made some progress [with Chatham Park Investors], but we have not closed the gap completely yet.”
The board of commissioners came to a consensus, asking Jackson to continue conversations with Chatham Park Investors.
The town also approved a request from Town Attorney Paul Messick Jr. to work with Chatham County Attorney Robert Hagemann and law firm Poyner Spruill LLP to provide legal counsel during negotiations for the interlocal agreement Pittsboro has developed with Sanford.
The interlocal agreement, approved in early 2022, is meant to serve as the basis for a merger with Sanford and its water and wastewater systems.
Reporter Taylor Heeden can be reached at email@example.com.