Construction of the Carlsborg sewer is on track to be “substantially completed” by next April, Clallam County commissioners learned in December.
Meeting the April 1 deadline would save the county about $250,000 in interest on a loan it secured to build the $9.025 million infrastructure, officials said.
“We’ve got a contractor that’s motivated and that’s a good thing for us,” assistant county engineer Joe Donisi said in the commissioners’ work session on Dec. 12.
“I think we’re on track with where we’re at now. We just need to keep on track.”
The contractor, Pacific Civil & Infrastructure of Federal Way, soon will add a third crew to expedite the project, Donisi said.
Substantial completion means fluid can be pumped from the new pump station on Carlsborg Road to the collection system in the city of Sequim, Public Works Administrative Director Bob Martin said.
“If we can do that, we will have shown that the project is substantially completed,” Martin said.
“That doesn’t mean that all of the connections and side sewers, maybe all of the sub-mains, are completed, but at least some portions of the collection system will be in.”
The effluent will travel from Carlsborg under the U.S. Highway 101-Dungeness River bridge to a collection system at Grant Road and then to the city’s wastewater treatment plant.
Clallam County secured a $10 million loan from the state Public Works Trust Fund to build the long-planned infrastructure.
If the county can meet its April 1 deadline, the interest rate on the 30-year loan will be lowered from 0.5 percent to 0.25 percent.
“If we do make it, it is going to be a woohoo moment,” said county engineer Ross Tyler, who initially was skeptical about making the deadline.
“They have been really turning and burning. I can’t compliment Joe and the contractor enough for really pulling out all the stops and going at it.”
Pacific Civil & Infrastructure submitted the lowest of seven bids that commissioners opened in February. The winning bid was about $2 million under the engineer’s estimate.
PCI is “pretty much done” working on Carlsborg Road and will now focus on the pump station and installing sewer pipes on side lines and within the city of Sequim, Donisi said.
Several Carlsborg business owners have complained that construction has resulted in fewer customers and less vehicle traffic.
This winter, Carlsborg Road will be pulverized, re-graded and resurfaced.
“It’s going to go into January now due to the weather,” Donisi said.
The road construction will affect a mile-long stretch of Carlsborg Road between U.S. Highway 101 and the Olympic Discovery Trail crossing, where the new pump station will go.
A two-way, left turn lane will be added in that busy section of Carlsborg Road.
“We should have a first-class road from 101 down to the Olympic Discovery Trail when we’re done,” Donisi said.
Officials said the early phases of sewer construction were hampered by the discovery of unidentified underground utilities, mostly phone lines.
The sewer line was rerouted in certain areas to avoid utilities and unmarked irrigation pipes, Donisi said.
“It was a daily issue that we had to deal with each day to make decisions as needed,” Donisi said. “I think we’re getting a handle on it now, ourselves, in house.”
Donisi said the contractor has done “an excellent job” of avoiding damage to the utilities.
“That’s the good news,” he said.
It was the design consultant’s responsibility to identify and document utilities and other potential barriers to the sewer, Martin said.
Commissioner Mark Ozias said he shared the staff’s frustration.
“It seems completely amazing to me that so many utilities could be missed and I don’t buy for a moment that they shouldn’t have known about the irrigation ditches, either, because that’s basic infrastructure for our area,” Ozias said.
“I would encourage you to keep close tabs on the extra expense that we’re incurring as a result of that.”
Tyler said the errors were being documented.
“We are going to have a serious discussion with the consultant about this,” Tyler said.
Despite the early hiccups, Tyler said he was “very pleased” with the overall progress of the project.
“Everybody’s really busting their humps to make that deadline and we’ll pick up the pieces later when we have time to do so,” Tyler said.
Donisi tried to keep the mistakes in perspective.
“It’s very frustrating, but it’s relatively minor given the overall scope of all the pressure lines, gravity lines, manholes, side sewers, laterals and pump station all the way into the city of Sequim under the bridge,” Donisi said.
“There’s a lot of components involved in the project that have been going well, just to reinforce that.”
Carlsborg residents and business owners are not required to connect to the sewer if they have properly functioning septic tanks.
However, no new septic systems will be allowed for new developments in the area once the system is operational.
Financial incentives will encourage residents and business owners to connect to the sewer sooner than later.
Meggan Uecker, Clallam County solid waste coordinator, said the county as of Dec. 12 had received 37 sewer connection applications for the equivalent of 42.5 residential units.
Other property owners are in discussions with the county or have sold easements that will allow them to connect at any time.
Commissioners have not yet adopted a user fee system for the sewer.
The average residential customer will pay about $70 per month to use the sewer, officials have said.
Bills will be “heavily weighted” toward consumption, Martin said.
Meanwhile, county engineers and PCI are focused on the “critical path” of achieving substantial completion by April.
“There’s not enough time at this point to figure out who’s to blame if we don’t make it,” Tyler said.
“If we do make it, we’re going to have a celebration.”
For information on the sewer project, go to http://tinyurl.com/PDN-carlsborgsewerproject.
Rob Ollikainen is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. He can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at rollikainen@peninsula dailynews.com.