Mount Holly water upgrades face roadblock

by Alan Hodge

MOUNT HOLLY – A hefty price tag prevented the Mount Holly City Council from another step toward closing or making repairs to its water treatment plant, after at least six years of talks about the facility creeping to capacity.

The council voted last month to table a $20,000 preliminary study of the plant by HDR Engineering and seek proposals from other engineering firms. Last year, the city paid Carollo Engineering $35,000 to determine cost estimates for improving or replacing the facility. The study recommended several options, including closing the plant at for $10 million or upgrading it at a cost of about $31 million. The need to either replace or upgrade the city’s wastewater treatment facility became a focal campaign issue during the last election, as several city council candidates declared the urgency of the situation.

“Our perception is a feeling of frustration,” Mount Holly Mayor Bryan Hough said. “We have been working on this a long time and look back at the money we spent and now we feel like we are spending it again to get to the real, real numbers.”

The proposed HDR Engineering study would feature more detail, including field investigations, engineering evaluation, an estimate of probable construction cost, a permitting review and a conceptual design report. The study would analyze the work that needs to be done before replacing or upgrading the facility and would only include preliminary design work.

Council member Perry Toomey questioned HDR engineer and former Carollo engineer David Parker as to why the city should pay for another preliminary study when it has already spent $35,000 on preliminary work.

“I’m wondering why it costs $20,000 for another preliminary study,” Toomey said. “Why not use some of the information from the previous study?”

Parker said the first study took a more conceptual approach and the proposed study would include more detail.

“It did not have the level of detail as now,” Parker said. “There were no details, such as topographical surveys and floodplain impacts. Better details will make it better to gauge the treatment plants’ costs. I want you to have confidence in the numbers.”

Several members, however, also questioned the $20,000 price tag and said they didn’t see why such an expensive second study would be necessary.

“There’s got to be value in the first study,” council member Jim Hope said.

Carollo told council members that the price, while not a set figure, was calculated based on similar project costs.

“It was a fairly quick number based on my experience on similar projects,” Parker said. “The number is in the ballpark, but there are things we can cut out.”

Mount Holly Utilities Director James Friday told the council that the next step toward answering the wastewater treatment question is to seek other candidates for the job. He said the utilities committee will invite other engineering firms to speak with the committee and “pick two or three to come and talk with the council, and we will go from there.”

Did you like this? Share it:

Leave a Reply