By Brian Sherman for Island Eye News
The Sullivan’s Island Town Council plans to award the contract to rebuild the town’s five wastewater pump stations at its Dec. 17 meeting, agreeing to spend in the neighborhood of $4 million to replace equipment that has outlived its expected life span by 15 years.
Not everyone in town is happy about the upgrade in the wastewater collection system. Several local residents who voiced their concerns at the Council’s Dec. 2 meeting agreed that the lift stations that will replace the current small brick buildings are “too big and too ugly.”
According to Councilman Bachman Smith IV, chair of the Water and Sewer Committee, the design of the new pump stations, which will have a larger footprint than the current stations, might be tweaked, but not until after the Council accepts one of three bids submitted on Nov. 26.
“I can’t say the design won’t change,” said Smith, who has served on the Water and Sewer Committee since he was first elected to the Council in 2015 and as its chair since 2017. “We’ve heard everyone’s complaints and what they want to happen. We need to consider if changes can be made and how they can be made without running afoul of the bidding process.”
He pointed out that there are two ways to make changes once a bid is accepted by the Council: through a post-bid addendum or a change order once the project is underway. For example, he said the height of the platforms supporting the electrical panels and the fence surrounding each station might be able to be lowered. He cautioned, however, that the town is required to abide by regulations established by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.
“We’re weighing our options,” said Smith. “We’re sensitive to the residents’ concerns, to the entire population’s needs and to our fiscal responsibility.”
Water & Sewer Department Manager Greg Gress pointed out that at least two of the system’s five lift stations were installed prior to 1951, 17 years before the town’s treatment plant was built. He said when the pumps were upgraded in 1998, they were expected to last for seven years.
Gress said the current pumps are vulnerable to flooding, which will not be the case with the new submersible pumps, which are designed to work underwater. He added that the electrical platforms will be elevated above the level of a 100-year flood.
The town was given three options to replace the lift stations by community infrastructure consultants WK Dickson, Gress said. Smith pointed out that the Water and Sewer Committee chose option C, which was also the least expensive way to upgrade the system’s five lift stations.
The bids came from Republic Contracting Corporation of Columbia, at $3,654,700; Chandler Construction Services, Inc. of Ninety Six, South Carolina, at $4,169,617; and R.H. Moore Company, Inc. of Murrells Inlet, at $4,368,500. A fourth bidder, Triad Engineering and Contracting of Charleston, was disqualified because it did not use the proper bid form.
The three bidders also submitted a quote to use polymer concrete wet wells instead of precast concrete wet wells, which would bring the bids to $3,824,700 for Republic; $4,323,307 for Chandler; and $4,534,500 for R.H. Moore.
A new feature of the lift stations will be that each of them will have a generator to provide power in emergency situations.
“They need to operate when nothing else is operating,” Smith said. “With the current lift stations, if there were an earthquake, no one would be flushing their toilets for a long, long time.”
Smith pointed out that Council members did their best to reduce the footprint of the new lift stations before bids were requested for the project, including eliminating about 20 feet of 6-foot cypress fencing – rather than chain-link fencing.
“We knew a chain-link fence was a no-go in residential areas,” Smith said.
DHEC requires the fence for security purposes, Gress pointed out. He added that the town is doing its best to balance aesthetics with functionality.
“We’re not going to please everybody. Some people may be happy and some people may not be. My job is to help the engineers design what’s best for everybody on the island. This project is for the entire island for many years to come,” he said.
“We need it to last, to perform the best it can while still being cognizant of the impact it has aesthetically on the residents,” Smith added.