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Bailey sewer grant is in jeopardy

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The town of Bailey has been awarded a number of grants to make inroads toward lifting its 16-year sewer moratorium. But one of those grants is now in jeopardy due to contractors’ failure to meet a state-imposed deadline.

In March 2017, Bailey was approved for a $150,000 Asset Inventory Assessment grant to conduct a thorough study on its wastewater system. Based on a project schedule submitted by the town estimating two years to complete the scope of work, which included an inventory of the condition and projected life of the system, an evaluation of preventative maintenance measures, smoke testing and a camera inspection, the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, which issued the grant, gave the town 24 months to complete the project.

At the time, the town awarded Raleigh-based public works contractor Envirolink the bid to complete the project. During the April town board meeting, commissioners revealed that Envirolink had not completed the project and had failed to update the board of its status. In fact, Mayor Thomas Richards said he knew nothing of the grant prior to the week before the April 15 meeting.

When the grant was awarded, Shelley Bullard, who was acting mayor at the time, was the only commissioner in place who is still currently serving on the board.

“I’d never been told anything about this grant until I spoke with a woman at DEQ who told me it was there and we were about to lose it,” Richards said. “I immediately contacted Envirolink to find out what happened.”

In its April monthly report, Envirolink said it was “in the process of coordinating the personnel and equipment needed to schedule your AIA sewer grant project. Once the personnel and equipment are in place, Envirolink will assist the town of Bailey in applying for an AIA sewer grant extension as requested by the state.”

It is unclear how much of the project has been completed. Envirolink could not be reached for comment in time for this story.

The board decided in closed session to terminate its contract with Envirolink and award the contract to Rocky Mount-based engineering and surveying firm Mack Gay Associates, P.A., provided an extension is granted for the project’s completion. Mike Tolson, the firm’s vice president, said it typically takes anywhere from 15 to 24 months to complete this type of project depending on the amount of deliverables it contains.

A second AIA grant for $150,000 was awarded in March to study the town’s drinking water systems. Mack Gay Associates has been slated to complete this project as well.

In addition to the two AIA grants, the town also was awarded $468,000 from the state Division of Environmental Quality to update its water filtration system.

ELJ Inc. in Jacksonville, an environmental and utility contractor, revised its original bid of $488,000 to $387,387.66 to accommodate the available funds. One-half of those funds, or $234,000, was awarded as a forgivable loan, which functions as a grant. The other half is set up as a 30-year, zero-interest loan. The revised bid allows Bailey to reduce the 30-year loan amount by $80,612.34.

Bailey is currently in the process of applying for a number of grants that will allow the town to do the work needed to lift the sewer moratorium. Water and Sewer Commissioner Dwan Finch said the AIA grant studies greatly improve the town’s chances of obtaining those grants.

“We get additional points on our application by completing these studies,” Finch said. “All that information that we get from those studies will help us as we upgrade our infrastructure. We need to know what’s good about it, what’s bad about it and what we need to do to get with the times.”