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Costs send GUC to drawing board again


Chris Padgett


By Seth Thomas Gulledge
The Daily Reflector

Friday, July 20, 2018

Greenville Utilities and its contractors are reconfiguring plans for its new operations center again after bids for site work came higher than the $15 million budgeted for the job.

Chris Padgett, chief operating officer for the utility, told its board of commissioners on Thursday that the lowest of five bids received for the work was about 20 percent more than what was budgeted for that portion of the the construction.

“The bids did come in higher than our cost estimate; that wasn’t entirely unexpected,” he said. “If you’ve been paying attention to the construction environment over the last six months, you’ve seen some escalation in the bids people have been seeing.”

The total budget for the 82-acre property on N.C. 43 west of town is $53 million, including $28 million for buildings, the $15 million for site preparation and $10 million for erosion control, design, planning and other costs.

Barnhill Contracting Company, the firm hired to manage the project, is working with GUC to identify ways to lower the cost of the site work so that the board can hire a contractor to move ahead.

Padgett said in the weeks since the bids were opened planners already have modified aspects of the work to reduce the 20 percent figure some and expect to bring bids closer to their budgeted costs. He said because of the increased amount of construction throughout Greenville, developers have been seeing higher cost over the last months. 

“This is a routine process these days, city has been through it, ECU has been through it — bids have been coming in higher,” he said.

Padgett said three of the five bids received were within a few hundred thousand dollars of each other. He said staff and contractors will continue working on the issue and bring back an option for the board during its August meeting. 

GUC leaders have discussed relocating the operations center since its Mumford Road location was damaged during flooding from Hurricane Floyd in 1999. The facility was flooded again in 2016 following Hurricane Matthew, but the damage was not as severe because workers moved a majority of equipment and vehicles.

It’s the second time high costs have forced GUC officials to alter their plans for the work. The board of commissioners in March increased the budget for phase I of the facility from $40.9 million to the $53 million figure while dramatically scaling back the project.

That vote came after an evaluation by staff and Barnhill placed estimates at $98 million to complete all phases of the work — up from $60-$65 million for the long-range plan.

At that time, the utility reduced the number of buildings planned for the site from five to three. It also delayed the construction of four open shelters for equipment. The fleet services garage and a building to house human resources and other administrative offices also were delayed.

The goal has been for construction to begin in November and the work be completed by 2020. 

GUC plans to eventually sell the Mumford Road location.

While staff is proposing water and sewer rate increases in the coming year to fund improvements at both treatment facilities, officials say rate increases will not be required to fund the operations center project.

Contact Seth Gulledge at sgulledge@reflector.com and 329-9579.