Tidewater looks to expand Millville water service

Tidewater Utilities has resolved a question that previously existed in a state of mystery: Millville should be getting expanded water service during the Route 26 Mainline Improvements Project. Tidewater hopes to piggyback on the Delaware Department of Transportation’s project to widen 4.14 miles of Route 26, from the Assawoman Canal in Ocean View to St. George’s Church in Clarksville.

In the past, DelDOT and contractor Century Engineering had reported no indication of Tidewater’s plan to participate in the project. But Tidewater introduced its plans at a Nov. 26 Millville Town Council workshop. The water company hopes to install new water mains on Route 26, westward from the Millville Volunteer Fire Company’s Station 1 in Millville to Windmill Drive and from Railway Road to just past White’s Neck Road.

The pipe would be on the westbound side of the road, except from the fire hall to Perucci’s restaurant.

Some existing pipes already stretch down Millville roads and spread through neighborhoods.

“My concern is with DelDOT,” said Councilmember Harry Kent. Even in October, Kent said, he had heard that DelDOT had no Tidewater construction plans. Kent found the apparent lack of coordination troubling.

“I would dread the Town having to go through this again. … I want to be sure we’re all on the same page,” he said.

“These are the first plans we’ve seen from Tidewater,” said Councilmember Robert Gordon.

“We’ve been waiting for this [Route 26 project] as long as you,” said Greg Coury, Tidewater project engineer.

The official design for the work isn’t finalized, and Tidewater has another year and a half to match up with DelDOT’s plans.

Tidewater is using DelDOT’s maps for reference but kept their drawings out of DelDOT’s plans so far — especially before knowing who the contractor was, explained Jeremy Kalmbacher, Tidewater’s director of engineering. He promised that Tidewater will coordinate and keep the Town of Millville updated.

Tidewater is required to solicit bids for the project but they anticipate working with George & Lynch, which is already contracting with DelDOT. The onsite contractor is often the low bidder, and it makes for easier coordination, and the two companies have a good working relationship, Kalmbacher said.

In the end, Kent emphasized again the demand for communication between Tidewater and DelDOT, for fear that Route 26 would have to close again someday for the work if the two entities didn’t coordinate.

“Our businesses are going to be hit hard,” he said of the Route 26 construction. “We don’t want to put them through more misery.”

Residents are not required to connect to Tidewater, but the council noted that, when a well goes bad, the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control may be less inclined to reissue a permit for the well when central water is available to the property.

Councilmember Joan Bennett called the water hookup an “economic development issue” that could potentially make the town more attractive to builders in the future.

Even Town Hall has been waiting for the opportunity to install a sprinkler system (an expensive option with their current well).

Town Engineer Kyle Gulbronson of URS asked about the solicitation procedure. Usually, Tidewater customer service and/or engineering representatives will send letters, letting people know they’re coming, Kalmbacher said.

To avoid digging up roads or sidewalks in the near future, Tidewater would prefer to bring a service lateral across the road and just “stump out,” so they’ll have a pipe ready to tap in future, especially with DelDOT’s likely five-year moratorium on digging up newly laid roads.

Eric Evans, code and building administrator for the Town, suggested Tidewater offer a pre-sign-up for people who will want water in the future, such as a 6-inch main to future developments. He said it may be easier to dig now than to jackhammer a line in the future.

Tidewater is approaching people early and, typically, there is no extra charge to connect 2-inch domestic lines to larger mains, Kalmbacher said.

Water outages will occur when pipes are reconnected, he said but that will be coordinated with individual homeowners. Existing customers do not need to hire a plumber, as tidewater will reconnect everything.

Also this week, the Millville Town Council again discussed Draft Ordinance 14-02, regarding accessory structures in the residential and C1-Commercial districts. Since their last meeting, language was added to define garages; ensure that the secondary buildings wouldn’t be rented out or used commercially; ensure a property won’t have too many structures; and allow people to more easily design a back yard to their pleasing.

A public hearing will likely be scheduled for January of 2014 to discuss the entire ordinance.