Zebulon’s Shepard School sidewalk project delayed, again

amoody@newsobserver.comNovember 14, 2013 

— More hiccups have again delayed the sidewalk project to connect Zebulon Middle School to the Zebulon Boys & Girls Club.

Zebulon Public Works Director Chris Ray told the town board at its November meeting it may be late summer 2014 before construction begins on the project.

“Sometimes, it seems like some of the projects that seem to appear to be the easiest sometimes cause us the most hiccups and headaches,” Ray said. “I think this one officially qualifies.”

The sidewalk was originally expect to be completed last spring, but the completion date was pushed back to this month after the bridges and structures unit of the N.C. Department of Transportation informed the town it needed to make improvements to the bridge over U.S. Highway 64/264 where the sidewalk will cross. Ray told commissioners at an April meeting the town had secured additional grant funding from DOT to cover the cost of the extra bridge work.

On Sept. 5, town staff received an email from the DOT giving the town the OK to advertise construction bids for the project. Since that time, the project suffered two more setbacks.

Town staff learned a matter of days before the bids were to be opened the bridges and structures unit had not given final approval of the project plans due to an oversight at DOT, Ray said. But no major project changes were expected since the town and DOT had worked closely throughout the project, according to Ray. So the town carried on with the bid process.

The first hitch came when the lowest construction bid, entered by Browe Construction on Sept. 26, came in at $255,735 – $32,108 over budget.

Town staff looked to Wake County Community Development Block Grant funding – which had awarded 80 percent of the $197,000 original price tag for the 1,900-foot-long sidewalk as part of a matching grant – to make up for the difference. Staff also looked to DOT, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Boys & Girls Club. None were able to provide funding, according to Ray.

Then, on Oct. 24, the bridges unit notified town staff it is requiring a chain-link fence, estimated to cost an additional $28,000 including design fees, across the bridge.

“We just kind of were caught off guard because in any of our conversations prior they had not mentioned it, and in one email conversation (the fence) was a recommendation, not a requirement,” Ray said.

The DOT did not return phone calls seeking comment for this report.

The bid overage and added fence requirement increased the total project cost to $358,208, creating a shortfall of $60,108.

With no town funding available, Ray recommended rejecting all current bids. He said the county and DOT have agreed to roll their grant funding into the next fiscal year, and that the town has already applied for another CDBG matching grant for fiscal year 2014.

If the grant is awarded, Zebulon would have to pay about $12,000 more to complete the project, based on the current construction bids.

“Our goal is complete the design, fence included, and get it approved by DOT with the goal of taking the project out to bid in late June, early July (2014), and hope to go to construction by late summer, early fall,” Ray said.

Moody: 919-829-4806; Twitter: @easternwakenews

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