The Rehoboth Beach commissioners, by a 5-1 vote, have approved a $40,000 change order to the ocean outfall force main to save trees along the banks of Canal Street.
Kelvin George, project manager for city engineers GHD, said contractor A-Del Construction is installing the main and is set to start work March 12 along Canal Street. As planned, the route of the force main would have required the contractor to take out numerous trees on the banks of the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal. In addition to removing trees, George said, the work could destabilize the canal bank. George said A-Del first proposed shifting the line toward the center of the road, but that route ran into a slew of city utilities that are difficult to work around.
A-Del has proposed a second alternative that requires tying the force main line to a line on Rehoboth Avenue, a county force main from Henlopen Acres ties into the Rehoboth system; Rehoboth treats and disposes of wastewater from Henlopen Acres. George said an existing manhole connects a pump station in Henlopen Acres to the Rehoboth pump station on State Road. All told, tying into this system would cost about $40,000, George said.
The alternative would be to realign Rehoboth’s force main, but George said this option would cost $154,000 and require a time extension
George said one concern with the proposal is potential overflow. Sussex County - already a 40 percent partner because the city treats wastewater from Dewey Beach, Henlopen Acres and North Shores - has proposed a 50/50 cost-sharing arrangement to increase capacity by increasing the size of the pipe from Canal Street to Sixth Street. The problem, George said, is there is no accurate price for the work at this time. Since this part of the project is not immediately necessary, the commissioners asked George to come back with a price in two weeks before making a commitment.
The most skeptical of the commissioners was Commissioner Lisa Schlosser, who questioned George as to why this was just coming up now when everyone knew there were trees along the route on Canal Street. Mayor Paul Kuhns said A-Del thought they would be closer to the street but as they moved more inward, there were a lot of utility lines in the area that made installing the force main line difficult. George said the proposal to tie into the manhole is a way to keep A-Del moving without any delays, while saving trees at the same time.
Unconvinced, Schlosser cast the only no vote.
“This seems like this is pretty fundamental to this project. How was this not anticipated in this project?” she asked. “This continuously happens.”
Schlosser decried a lack of long-term planning and questioned how the city goes over budget on big projects like City Hall and the outfall. Kuhns said the city is not over budget on the outfall and is actually $2 million under budget, thanks to credits received due to design changes, with $3 million in contingencies that have not been touched.
“We’re not even close to being over budget,” Kuhns said.
Commissioner Stan Mills said the proposal is GHD coming to the city with an alternative to taking out trees. He favored the proposal, even though he did not think it was a perfect cure-all.
“I’m all for trying to preserve some of the trees,” he said.
The commissioners voted on the motion without taking public comment. Walter Brittingham, 123 Henlopen Ave., attempted to speak, but Kuhns did not allow it because, Kuhns said, public comment was not noted on the agenda.
City abandons gravel parking areas
Kuhns announced the city will not place gravel on city-owned rights-of-way along both sides of Henlopen Avenue.
A-Del Construction is finishing work on the force main along Henlopen, and the plan is for the contractor to repave the road once work is finished. On Feb. 1, the city announced a plan to install gravel on both sides of the roadway to give a uniform look to the street and for parking.
That proposal met with resistance from homeowners, who objected to the plans and to the lack of communication from city officials about their plans.
Kuhns said after speaking with Henlopen Avenue homeowners, the city has now decided to install a small amount of gravel in the right-of-way for drainage. Homeowners may restore what was previously in the right of way once work is completed, Kuhns said.
That was music to the ears of Henlopen Avenue residents who attended the commissioners March 5 workshop.
Tim Burns, 130 Henlopen Ave., thanked the commissioners for their flexibility, while Terry Askew, 102 Henlopen Ave., said she was glad the commissioners listened to residents. Askew said homeowners opposed gravel because it would destroy the unique character of the neighborhood. She said the city could give homeowners an option to have gravel installed in the right-of-way if they wanted it, at the homeowners’ expense.
Mary Stewart, 40 Henlopen Ave., said the city should communicate directly with homeowners. Kuhns said he intends to send out a letter to homeowners announcing the changes.