Hardy water gets costlier — again

Published 5:19 pm Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Smithfield contributes ARPA funds

The cost of supplying drinking water to the planned replacement Hardy Elementary School has risen once again.

Only this time, the town of Smithfield has stepped in to cover most of the monetary shortfall.

As of June, Isle of Wight County officials were projecting a cost of roughly $4.29 million — up from the $2.2 million 2020 estimate — for constructing an on-site water tower at the new school and extending water lines from the town of Smithfield to supply the tower. The water project is being funded separately from the school’s construction, and as such, isn’t included in the $36.8 million guaranteed maximum price M.B. Kahn Construction specified in its September contract with the county.

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According to County Administrator Randy Keaton, the $4.29 million figure was based on an estimated cost of just over $1.9 million for the tank alone. The county has since put the water project out to bid and received responses indicating the tank alone will cost nearly $2.5 million, which will rise to just over $2.8 million when factoring in the cost of creating an access road to the tank, and the cost to connect the tank to the proposed new water main at the road. As a result, the overall water main extension project will now cost upwards of $5 million in total.

“The cost of steel is the main driver of the cost increase,” Keaton said.

Bill Cram, Kahn’s executive vice president, told Isle of Wight County’s Board of Supervisors in September that last year, in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, the construction industry had continued to operate as a designated essential service, but a number of the industry’s suppliers were forced to shut down, resulting in skyrocketing demand, massive inflation and months-long delivery delays that are still being felt this year.

In November, Smithfield’s Town Council voted to contribute $800,000 from its allocation of American Recovery Plan Act funds toward the Hardy water project. Congress passed the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill in March, and the town had received just shy of $4.4 million as of August. The town is slated to receive a second payment of just under $4.4 million in June.

According to a Nov. 1 memorandum from Town Manager Michael Stallings, the new water line will also supply the Pinewood Heights area, a former residential neighborhood behind the Smithfield Foods meatpacking plants, which the town has been working to acquire and transform into an industrial park.