The first quarter of the year came with high waters, but the weather has not stopped the Town of Elizabethtown from pressing forward with needed construction and repairs. Town of Elizabethtown Manager, Eddie Madden gave updates on several of projects.
Madden announced the second phase of downtown revitalization is going well. The utilities part of the construction process is almost done. All the new utility lines are going under the road instead of above it with the new phase. The light fixtures down Broad Street should start being erected this week according to Madden.
The new downtown landscape will stop at about Melton’s Restaurant because it is a transition from Four County Electric to Duke Electric. The price to continue the project by transitioning from one power company to another would cost millions of dollars, therefore, the town decided to halt the project before needing to transition with a new utility company. The outlined project area will be from Pine Street to Gillespie Street along NC Highway 87 (West Broad Street).
The anticipated cost of the project is expected to be $1.6 million and is funded through a low interest loan from the USDA. The project started in April and is estimated to take approximately six months to complete.
The Town’s new fire and rescue facility at the intersection of East Broad Street and South Cypress Street is currently in the construction process as well. The new building will be constructed by DeVane Builders and will house both the Elizabethtown Fire Department and Elizabethtown Rescue Squad. Funding for the new building was given by Golden Leaf, according to Madden, because of damages received to the volunteer rescue building during Hurricane Matthew.
The funding from the grant is 2.5 million dollars. The cost to the town is $300,000 for the cost of the fire department’s division of the facility. The target date is October to December for the completion of the project.
Tory Hole Park repairs by S & C Construction were needed because of damages due to the flooding from Hurricane Florence. The delays in repairs to the park were due to the remaining high water levels since the flood. He estimated the damages to the park to be about $30,000. Repairs to the bathroom facilities have been made and the debris removal is ongoing.
The town also has kept the park closed to the public because of work being performed by North Carolina Department of Transportation crews to remove a log jam beneath the US Highway 701 bridge. The debris removal from under the bridge has been completed.
The town has worked out an agreement with NC DOT to grind any debris the town staff removes from the park. The historical park may open as early as this week.
The announcement of both the southbound and northbound bridges being reopened for traffic came earlier in mid-May from Andrew Barksdale, Public Relations Officer, N.C. Department of Transportation.
North Carolina Department of Transportation District Engineer, Kenneth Clark, PE confirmed earlier in May the Highway 701 bridge did receive inspection approval. However, a closure of a single lane will be in the near future according to Barksdale. ACC West Coast of Benicia, California, will remove a portion of the driving surface and replace the pavement with a more durable epoxy-type concrete that produces a smoother ride, according to the NCDOT press release.
Barksdale stated on Thursday, May 16, 2019, the restoration process will begin soon, but an exact date for the project to start is not known at this time.
The N.C. Department of Transportation awarded the $1.35 million contract in May of 2018.
“The deck will have a new topping, after we blast off the top inch,” said Terry Church, an assistant resident engineer for NCDOT’s Whiteville office. “We are extending the life of this bridge.”
At times, one of the two lanes on the bridge will be closed to traffic for the restoration. The project competition date will be announced at a later time.
The southbound U.S. 701 bridge was built in 1957, and its deck was restored a few years ago, according to the NCDOT.
Last but not least, the Elizabethtown Town Cemetery damages may be beyond repair to maintain graves at the site. According to Madden the soil shifting is deep within the surface. The funding for the repair project has been made however, it comes with a multi-layered approval process, Madden explained.
To repair the cemetery to its pre-storm conditions has an estimated of cost around $388,000. Repairing the cemetery to pre-hurricane Florence conditions and implementing solutions to reduce the frequency and severity of soil movement in future significant storms is estimated to cost $760,650, but does not guarantee the soil will not shift again.
Relocating over 200 graves on the site to a new location is the viable option the Town is concentrating on now. This option is estimated to cost the town between $2.8 million and $3.2 million.
The solutions for repairing the cemetery are not simple. Madden explained that simply standing the tombstones back up and filling in the existing cracks with soil will not be adequate to return the cemetery to pre-storm conditions.
Madden said the town staff are continuing to work with FEMA officials to try to work through the issues with the cemetery and to find a workable solution for the damages at the cemetery. He explained the project is complicated because it involves a cemetery.
There is still hope for other funding avenues to address the issues occurring with the cemetery. The town was notified in March by the NC Office of Recovery and Resiliency (NCORR). The town has been awarded a $2 million loan and a $500,000 grant. As part of the grant application to the NCORR, Madden said the town requested $50,000 to perform a study of erosion issues not just at the cemetery but along the Cape Fear River inside the town limits.
“We will present our plans to the council in June. Our main priority is to get the graves relocated,” Madden said.
More information on the construction and repair projects the Town of Elizabethtown has ongoing will be published as soon as it is made available.