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Work begins on ‘fish streets’ sewer rehab

Crews with Mississippi-based Suncoast Infrastructure have begun the task of rehabilitating the sewer system that serves Atmore’s “fish streets” and will soon be back in town to resume work on a project that could wind up costing nearly half a million dollars.

“It will probably be another two or three months before we finish,” said Kenny Smith, general manager of West Escambia Utilities. “There will be times when you won’t see us over there. When they (Suncoast) are making the bags (for the new sewer piping), they don’t do that on-site. They’re back at their place, getting ready to come install them.”

The Mississippi contractor, reportedly one of the three top sewer rehab companies in the Southeast, was awarded the bid in July to do the work on the system, some components of which are 80 years old or older. The work will be done on the portion that serves Perch, Bream and Trout streets.

Each of the three streets has a junction with Short Street, where the main line is located, requiring the partial blockage of that traffic artery while work is ongoing. The company has done a significant portion of its work at night over the past couple of weeks to help soften the impact on local traffic.

Suncoast’s bid of $394,960 was the lowest among four received and will be paid through proceeds of a Community Development Block Grant from Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.

Smith said WEU, which has “about 48 or 49 miles of sewer mains” within and just outside Atmore, was taking advantage of the bid and the grant funding by putting $100,000 of its own money into the pot. In total, $446,970 has been budgeted for the project, providing a “cushion” of about $52,000.

He pointed out, also, that the projected budget surplus could be quickly absorbed in an ever-changing series of findings that could affect the overall scope of the project.

“Where they couldn’t put a line, they’re probably going to wind up having to dig it up and fix it,” explained Smith. “And it’s not necessarily in the main lines, because they’re trying to fix the laterals, too, up to the property line. We’re going to go back in there and reline any of them that we can, try to do all of them before the money runs out.”

He explained further that there are several points within the sewage transfer system where more work will have to be done than was first thought.

“We’re weighing our options, trying to come up with a plan,” he said. “There are too many deep ones that appear to need to be dug up, and we don’t want to do that. If we dug 10 up, there would have to be 10 cut-ins into the road. And it wouldn’t be just little ditches; they would be 12 or 14 feet wide and 17 feet deep.”
Smith also pointed out that the infusion of WEU funds made good business sense. He added that the multi-street wastewater system currently under renovation remains in relatively good shape, despite its age.

“We had to put up $100,000 of our money,” said the utility company GM. “We don’t necessarily want to spend $100,000 but we can’t afford not to do it (because) we’re going to get half a million dollars value from it. It doesn’t bother me that we might not get as much done (as originally expected) because we don’t really have any major issues over there. We want to get what we can done without the taxpayers having to pay for it.”