By: Thomas Sherrill, The News Reporter
An industrial park and property owners in various parts of Columbus County are one step closer to getting county water after commissioners voted during their March 1 meeting to accept two construction bids totaling $1.67 million.
According to the meeting materials, Ralph Hodge Construction of Wilson was the lowest of nine bidders for both projects.
Hodge’s bid specifically for the International Logistics Park along the Columbus-Brunswick border on U.S. 74-76 was $353,896 while his bid for the six remaining water lines to be installed was $1,323,095.20.
The lowest bid for the six rural water lines was $43,000 under budget while the International Logistics Park water line was 10% over budget but was still acceptable, according to Green Engineering of Wilson, who is the engineer of the project.
The $1.3 million portion of the project includes water line extensions on Frank Norris Road, Seven Creeks Highway, Clarendon-Chadbourn Road, Otto Nance Road, Lynn Hill Road and North Lakes Road.
Columbus County Economic Development Director Gary Lanier said that the 16-inch line for the International Logistics Park will support the first building that is to be constructed there. Lanier told the board that park officials are still waiting on a firm commitment from someone to move into that building, but he said the county needs to move forward with the water lines either way.
The county solicited the bids after commissioners voted in September 2020 to move forward with the projects.
After approval of the water line extensions, Commissioner Giles “Buddy” Byrd said he’s been contacted by the town of Sandyfield, which wants to buy water from Columbus County instead of Bladen County. Byrd said currently Sandyfield buys water from the town of East Arcadia.
Byrd also said that the town of Bolton contacted him wanting an interconnect to tie them in “for safety reasons” during emergencies in case their pump or well doesn’t function.
“Speaking with Mr. Gary [Lanier], it could be very beneficial to the county as well as very beneficial to Bolton as they can possibly put in for a grant and we could possibly put in for a grant,” Byrd said.
Commissioner Lavern Coleman said he’s been “hollering for water” for the Prosper area for years and wants to see if they can tie it in and said he wants to get petitions for that area.
Commissioner Jerome McMillian added in his requests for water extensions to Silver Spoon Road, Bullard Road and Joe Piver Road, saying they weren’t included in the bidding process. Edwards said the roads bid out were ones where people signed up and paid a $150 deposit, which is required.
Amanda Davis from the county utilities office said that they have received a small number of waterline applications from those three roads so far.
Board Chair Ricky Bullard asked Davis about complaints he’s received about water department people not answering the phones. Davis said that they have been busy and said that some customers take up to 30 minutes to help, including taking credit card information over the phone. Bullard said he felt like the people in the water department office could do a better job of answering the phones.