The city of Statesboro has hired a contractor, Electricom LLC, to replace the city’s natural gas supply pipeline under the Ogeechee River for $861,030 and change.
In an unrelated development, the city has an engineering firm preparing specs for a project to reinforce sewer mains and a storm-water artery. This week's City Council meeting, which lasted almost exactly one hour, was as much about pipelines as anything.
The gas supply line from Screven County crosses under the Ogeechee into Bulloch County, and dates from 1955. When the project was first presented to City Council as a need in April 2016, Natural Gas Department Director Steve Hotchkiss cited a potential risk if the pipeline wasn’t updated.
Supported on pilings and piers, the eight-inch diameter high-pressure pipeline itself remains in fair condition, he said, but is exposed under water in the river channel, which changes over time.
"That's our only feed into town," Hotchkiss said then. "That brings all the gas into Statesboro, and we need to make sure that that approach line doesn't get compromised by erosion in that river channel."
That was 15 months ago, when the council authorized the mayor to sign a contract with the AMEC Foster Wheeler firm for engineering services on the project, at fees not to exceed $120,000.
Tuesday, city Central Services Director Darren Prather presented the results of the recent bid opening for the pipeline construction. It will include drilling a horizontal passage a minimum of 15 feet beneath the riverbed and replacing about 5,000 feet, almost a mile, of pipe.
Eight construction companies attended a pre-bid conference, and six submitted sealed bids. Of these, the three lower bids, from Electricom LLC, RAW Construction and Southeast Connections LLC, ranged from $861,030.77 to $898,050. A fourth company bid $990,250, and two others asked much higher prices, of more than $1.3 million and more than $1.9 million.
Prather recommended, and City Council unanimously accepted, the lowest bid, Electricom’s $861,030 price. Hotchkiss called the highest bid “an anomaly” and said he is confident Electricom’s bid is realistic because it was so close to the next two.
The project’s total allotted time is 120 days, but the subcontractor that will drill beneath the river said that phase should take about three weeks, Hotchkiss reported.
“Pipe delivery will be an issue, when we can get pipe on the ground so that the project can start. …,” he said. “I hope that once pipe hits the ground that within 60 days we’re pretty substantially complete.”
The only permits required for the gas pipeline were from the Georgia Department of Transportation, Prather said. The city had a required wetlands survey done.
The city has $1.2 million, including $1 million from the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or SPLOST, and $200,000 from natural gas revenues, budgeted for the project. The engineering fee upper limit and construction bid add up to a little less than $1 million.
Statesboro's city-owned natural gas system extends from Screven County southwest to Statesboro, and south and west to Interstate 16 both in Bulloch County and at Metter in Candler County. For the fiscal year that began July 1, the natural gas system has budgeted expenses of $4.6 million, up from $4.1 million the previous year.
Sewers and drains
The other pipeline project City Council took action on affects three sections of sanitary sewer and one large-diameter storm water main within the city limits. This work is not in the construction phase yet, but is expected to be done within the fiscal year, and will involve putting special liners in old pipes.
Council unanimously approved paying the firm Hussey Gay Bell $27,340 for engineering design work on this project.
The work is a step in combatting “inflow and infiltration” of rainwater into the sanitary sewer system through cracks, separated pipes and other defects, Deputy City Manager Robert Cheshire told the council. The rainwater, which would not have to be treated if it went into the storm drain system, adds to the load on the wastewater treatment plant.
The three sanitary sewer mains to be lined are one at Edgewood Subdivision, another in a part of Fletcher Subdivision and along North Main Street, and another from Cone Street to Proctor Street. They add up to almost three miles in length.
Without having to dig up and replace the pipes, a contractor will insert and inflate the liner, which is cured in place and reinforces the pipe.
“You’re under roads, you’re in yards, so that’s all the more reason to try to do something that’s less invasive,” Cheshire said. “You don’t have to stop traffic as often as when you’re doing cut-and-replace.”
Additionally, the city’s staff proposes to have a contractor use this process on a storm sewer pipe that runs for more than 500 feet under Fair Road Park. In contrast to the sanitary sewer mains, each of which is eight or 10 inches in diameter, the storm sewer pipe is 36 inches across.
In this case, the liner is intended to reinforce the drain pipe, which Cheshire said is cracking and pulling apart at several joints.
A city council member asked how long the liners are expected to last, in comparison to more expensive pipe replacement. Hussey Gay Bell Vice President C.J. Chance said the liners should last about 30 years, compared to about 50 years for new pipes. The sewer mains being reinforced are 50 years old, Cheshire said.
The city has money budgeted but won’t know the cost of the pipe rehabilitation until bids are taken.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.