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City will spend up to $266,700 to repair Hill Street after contractor hit water main
Traffic barrels block entry to the right onto Hill Street in this view from Siebald Street. A section of pavement is missing behind the nearest barrels, and the fissures and cracks trail down the hill since the Dec. 9 water main accident.
Traffic barrels block entry to the right onto Hill Street in this view from Siebald Street. A section of pavement is missing behind the nearest barrels, and the fissures and cracks trail down the hill since the Dec. 9 water main accident. - photo by AL HACKLE/Staff

One full block of Hill Street in downtown Statesboro from Siebald Street down past Oak Street remains closed after damage that city officials report occurred when a contractor working for Bulloch Solutions bored into a 10-inch water main on Dec. 9.

City Council on Dec. 21 authorized spending up to $266,700 with other contractors for repairs to the street and some geotechnical work to help make sure the repairs last. City Manager Charles Penny said the city government will attempt to recover costs from Bulloch Solutions’ contractor or their insurers.

Bulloch Solutions, identified by its traditional name Bulloch Telephone, had obtained approval from city staff members Oct. 12 to bore under Hill Street at the Siebald Street intersection to install a fiber optic communication line, according to city Public Works and Engineering Director John Washington’s memo.

On the afternoon of Dec. 9, the contractor hit the water main that runs north-south along Hill Street, causing the main to rupture and fail, Washington reported.

“Due to the high pressure and great amount of water flowing out of the breached main, the uncontained water flows eroded the roadway surface,” he wrote. “The water flow followed the direction of the main in an eastern direction under the roadway. This upward and eastern flow of water started damaging the subgrade and the roadway base and eventually lifting the roadway asphalt layer at some locations up to 4 inches.”

The lingering results of this torrent and the city’s emergency effort to close off the water main can be seen behind the orange drums and cones blocking Hill Street immediately below the Siebald intersection. A big chunk of pavement is missing, and fissures of collapsed asphalt, with some exposed clay, continue downhill from there. This part of Hill Street is behind the Bulloch County Judicial Annex and its parking lot and in front of the Bulloch County Probation Office.

Washington reported that the subgrade and base materials had eventually “started to wash into residential driveways and parking lots along Oak Street,” as damage reached the Railroad Street intersection on Hill.

“This portion of Hill Street is closed to through traffic until the structural integrity of the roadway can be established and repairs made,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, access to the Judicial Annex parking lot was also impeded, and the city staff worked with county Judicial Annex employees to give them access to a city parking area.

Reporting to the mayor and council Dec. 21, City Manager Charles Penny said that without further exploratory work, city staff members did not really know how far down Hill Street the damage ran or if the water had created underground voids.


McLendon to pave

So, with that being the council’s last meeting of 2021, he asked for approval to have McLendon Enterprises of Vidalia, already the general contractor for Statesboro’s Blue Mile Streetscape project, now underway, do the Hill Street repair.

McLendon had submitted a base offer of $190,537 for activities from a layout survey and demolition of the existing asphalt through repaving. But the full proposal also included an additive $33,550 offer for “optional items,” such as replacement of curbs and gutters, a railroad symbol and double yellow lines, as well as removal and replacement of any unsuitable subgrade material.

That made McLendon’s total offer $224,087, and meanwhile Atlas Technical Consultants sought $4,500 for subsurface assessment of damaged roadway sections. Penny said other geotechnical work is needed to make sure “we don’t have a sinkhole somehow down the road.”

Washington in his memo added a 15% continency to the road repair, making the total of McLendon’s offer plus contingency $257,700, and also doubled the allowed amount for geotechnical work to $9,000. Both parts of the work, Washington said, involve final costs that wouldn’t be known until the damaged material is removed.

That made the total requested an “up to” amount of $266,700.


Seeks to ‘subrogate’

“Our intention is to get the street repaired, but our intention is also to subrogate and go back on that contractor to get our money back for that street repair,” Penny told the elected officials.

For now, the repair will be funded from Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax revenue authorized to the city in a 2018 referendum, he added.

“We’ll do our best to subrogate,” Penny reiterated when District 2 Councilwoman Paulette Chavers asked if Bulloch Solutions’ contractor caused the damage but the city was paying to fix it. “Subrogation” generally refers to a claim against another party’s insurance.

Washington said he believed that the contractor had done “a locate” before drilling. This is a procedure using a service that locates existing underground utilities and notifies the owners. The city’s mains “were marked,” but the other thing the contractor should have done was to make a “test hole” to see how far the water main was below the surface, Washington said.

Council’s vote authorizing the expenditure was unanimous on a motion made by District 5 Councilwoman Shari Barr.

No work had begun at this location as of Monday. Penny said the understanding behind the December authorization was that the work should be done within five weeks.


Bulloch Solutions

The city’s Dec. 21 memo on the accident and proposed repairs identified the utility contactor by a company name that, when asked about this Monday, Bulloch Solutions CEO and General Manager John Scott said was not quite the name of any contractor he was aware of doing work for the company. To his understanding, the utility contractor that did the boring was Leefield Logistics, he said, but Scott emphasized that he is not casting blame on anyone for the accident.

He called Leefield a good company and said that all contractors employed by Bulloch Solutions are licensed and insured.

“This was one of those things where there’s not a bad guy in the situation,” Scott said. “We had proper permits, we had talked to the city about the scope of work and the city had been out to locate the lines, and unfortunately you’re talking about a matter of a foot or two of whether you miss something you can’t see under a paved area or not, and it’s one of those things where this time, the drill head met the water line.”

He acknowledged that the street damage was extensive.

“In all the years that we’ve been doing work in the city there’s been very few incidents of damage to speak of and none, to my recollection, of that magnitude,” Scott said.

In addition to the many miles of fiber optic cable Bulloch Solutions has installed in and around Statesboro in recent years, the company has completed a number of projects directly for the city government, including connecting both Luetta Moore Park and the Grady Street Park to broadband as part of the 2021 park renovations.

“We appreciate the cooperation and the work that we’ve had with the city, because we’ve done many, many jobs in the city as well as for the city,” Scott added. “So, this was just one of those things that happens in construction, you know. It’s unfortunate, but we appreciate the relationship with the city and want to continue to do good work.”



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