County sewer projects to receive federal stimulus money

Projects designed to expand central wastewater service in Sussex County and thereby eliminate failing septic systems, improve water quality and ultimately protect the environment will get a boost from the federal stimulus package, county officials announced this week.

County Administrator David B. Baker announced Tuesday, March 24, that Sussex County had been approved by the Delaware Clean Water Advisory Council to receive approximately $7.7 million in grants under the Clean Water State Revolving Fund.

The grants, also known as “debt forgiveness,” and approximately $6.9 million in loans, will help pay for a variety of sewer projects, including the new Johnson’s Corner and Angola Neck sewer systems, and the proposed Woodlands of Millsboro project, as well expansions to the Oak Orchard sewer system and a regional treatment facility.

Combined, the projects will cost nearly $78 million and serve approximately 10,000 customers in parts of eastern Sussex County, principally around the Inland Bays.

The funding, approved last week, would come by way of the federal stimulus package, also known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, of which Delaware is estimated to receive $1.5 billion in funding. The package, among other things, is aimed at supporting “shovel-ready” projects that could infuse the local economy with money and jobs.

Council President Vance C. Phillips said this week that he is pleased the county will receive the federal dollars, keeping the projects both viable and affordable.

“These projects are critical to ensuring a healthy economy and a healthy environment,” Phillips said. “The Clean Water Advisory Council has the foresight to recognize that, and we appreciate their efforts to improve the quality of life, the environment and the economy of Sussex County.”

The county council on March 24 moved forward unanimously to approve the first of two major contracts for the construction of the Johnsons Corner Sanitary Sewer District.

Though it was bid with so-called “state revolving funds” (SRF) funding, under state wage guidelines, County Engineer Mike Izzo said Tuesday that the shift to stimulus funding would cause only minor complications with the cost of the project as bid.

“The stimulus funding brought in Davis-Bacon wages,” he said, adding that the county would have to sit down with the contractors and discuss the wage rates. He said he expected some to go up and some down, making for a minimal net difference.

Additionally, he noted, the stimulus money comes with a “Buy American clause” that could affect materials used, possibly resulting in a small change order on the project to rectify the two sets of changes.

The stimulus funds will go to spur the local economy, though, as the winning bidder on the $4.5 million first phase of the project was Bunting and Murray of Selbyville.

The project will include the installation of the sewer system, as well as restoration and repaving. Izzo said state transportation officials had already committed $63,000 to fund the paving of a small gap between the project area and an area on Route 20 that DelDOT previously disturbed in its own work.

Izzo further noted that contracts for all projects funded by the stimulus money must be signed by Feb. 17, 2010, with another 10 to 12 contracts being impacted by the deadline.