County eyes new sewage plant for Courtland

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 25, 2007

COURTLAND—A company that provides engineering services for the county has proposed a series of major projects aimed at resolving issues with Southampton’s largest, most economically important sewage system.

Engineers at The Timmons Group submitted the unsolicited joint proposal with Mid Eastern Builders Inc. last week, as allowed by the Public Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act (PPEA).

The companies, which are working together as Southampton County Infrastructure LLC, propose to design and build a sewage treatment plant with an initial capacity of 1.25 million gallons per day to serve the Courtland area. Later phases would allow that plant to double or even triple in size.

The team also wants to design and build the components that will feed the new plant, including a major gravity trunk sewer, a pumping station and an associated force main, according to the proposal submitted last week.

The act the team invoked in making its proposal allows private organizations to circumvent the traditional bid process when they see a need within a community. Communities accepting such proposals are required to allow other companies 45 days to respond with their own ideas to solve similar problems.

At the end of the 45-day period, the receiving community can choose to proceed no further, to proceed with a detailed review of the original proposal, to proceed with a detailed review of a competing proposal or to proceed with detailed reviews of multiple proposals.

In voting to accept the proposal from Southampton County Infrastructure on Monday, the Board of Supervisors set that process in motion.

Members are concerned about the status of the existing Courtland wastewater treatment plant, which is 27 years old and &uot;near its design capacity,&uot; according to County Administrator Michael Johnson.

In a brief discussion Monday afternoon of his board’s morning action, Johnson said The Timmons Group, as the county’s engineer, had an unusual insight into the problems with the Courtland sewer system and an understanding of the pressing need for upgrades.

An executive summary included as part of the team’s proposal states, &uot;The county is currently dealing with antiquated infrastructure throughout the Courtland service area that appears to be in various states of disrepair.&uot;

The problems are accelerating, county leaders say, and the deadline for repairs approaches ever more quickly.

Current sewage flow within the system ranges from 75 percent to 95 percent of its permitted capacity, and planning for an expansion must start when the plan exceeds 95 percent of its capacity, the tem states in its proposal.

With several housing developments experiencing problems due to failing drain fields, and with plans or construction in progress for at least two projects — Riverdale Elementary School and the Turner Tract industrial park — that would be major sewage system consumers, something needs to be done soon, officials say.

Performing the work under the PPEA could speed up the process, Johnson said.

&uot;In contrast with a conventional design-bid-build process, the PPEA approach will offer substantial value to Southampton County in terms of reducing risk, cost savings and an accelerated design and construction schedule for these projects,&uot; the proposal states.

Though it offered a conceptual outline of its plan for the public, the team asked the Board of Supervisors to keep its cost estimates and design proposals temporarily private.