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After ‘very unusual circumstance’ derails Sykesville sewage project, Carroll County commissioners OK more funding

With some frustration, the Carroll County commissioners recently approved extra spending for a Sykesville sanitation project as a consequence of an error that has held it up for over half a year.

On May 14, the Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved funding a change order for a project to install a sewage pumping station in Sykesville.

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The Schoolhouse Road Pumping Station and Force Main Project has a goal to bypass and eliminate a problematic portion of the county’s sewer system located on the south side of Sykesville, according to Commissioner Ed Rothstein, R-District 5.

“This aging portion of the sewer system is bounded by the Patapsco River to the south and the CSX railroad to the north,” Rothstein said in a text. “Frequent maintenance activity has been required in recent years to keep this sewer main in operation.”

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The project involves the construction of a sewer pump station near the Schoolhouse Road cul-de-sac, according to Rothstein, along with a force main from the pump station to a manhole structure on Oklahoma Avenue.

“These improvements would allow the abandonment of the existing sewer main and would provide adequate service to the western portion of the sewage service area for the foreseeable future,” Rothstein said in a text. “As part of the improvements, [Baltimore Gas & Electric Co.] would be required to extend electrical service to the pump station via the Schoolhouse Road right of way.”

The project is currently undergoing construction and is estimated to be complete in the next four to six weeks, according to Andrew Watcher, chief of the Bureau of Utilities.

Last week, the Bureau of Purchasing and the Bureau of Utilities requested that the commissioners approve a change of order to Emmitsburg-based W.F. Delauter & Son Inc. in the amount of $64,617.07 for general conditions costs, such as bonding, equipment and personnel, associated with a utility electric service delay to the project. The grand total for the project stands at about $2.1 million.

The project has been delayed by seven months due to an issue in ownership of the roadway.

As the county was coordinating with Sykesville on the acquisition of the BGE easement agreement — which allows BGE to run a conduit through the right of way to provide power to the transformer box to the new pump station location — they discovered the Schoolhouse Road right of way is privately owned. The private owner then had to conduct the easement agreement with BGE instead, delaying the project.

“This is a very unusual circumstance that I have not really come across in my work in the public sector,” Watcher said in an interview. “There was very little knowledge that was presented to us that the roadway was not a publicly owned roadway.”

The project started in November 2018, and work was nearing the end phase, with the power extension to the pump one of the final things needed to start turning the pump station. W.F. Delauter & Son Inc. was the original contractor when work started, but when work was delayed at no fault of theirs, it costs the company — hence the extra $64,000 paid for the change of order.

Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, said in the commissioners’ meeting that he thought some of the cost should be shared with the town due to the delay caused by finding out about the private ownership. Watcher said there is no financial agreement with the town and he didn’t think that was something that could be accomplished.

Responding to Frazier, Rothstein said, “I understand where you’re coming from; it’s unintended consequences that are happening, and I’m not sure if the town should be held liable on this one. Or I don’t know how we would do that, so I think it’s a cost the county is just going to have to take on.”

Commissioner Richard Weaver, R-District 2, said the seven-month delay was “unacceptable” and should have been picked up somewhere in the earlier stages of the process. Weaver also asked how they can know that it won’t happen again.

Watcher said things like this will be checked on thoroughly moving forward.

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Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, asked Watcher if he could look into what level of responsibility lies within the county and the town. Watcher responded that he could reach out to town officials, but it could be complicated due to the back-and-forth discussions involved.

Frazier said if there’s nothing they can do, then that’s fine, but it’s something that he thought should be looked into.

Rothstein made the motion to approve the fund change, and the commissioners voted 5-0 to approve it, with Rothstein agreeing to work with Watcher on determining responsibility for the delay.

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