Bid received on Watauga water line project   

By Thomas Wilson
star staff
twilson@starhq.com

  A bid to replace water lines nearly 50 years old in the town of Watauga awaits approval by the Elizabethton City Council.
  Birchfield Construction Company of Johnson City submitted the lowest bid of $376,670 to replace Watauga's water system infrastructure during an opening of sealed bids at Elizabethton City Hall on Thursday. The project calls for replacement of the town's existing water system with larger lines and installing several fire hydrants.
  "We will be putting in 6-inch water lines and replacing 2- and 4-inch water lines," said Joseph Wauford of J.R. Wauford Consultants, the engineering firm overseeing the project, who along with City Director of Planning, David Ornduff, reviewed bids submitted for the project.
  Birchfield Construction along with Baker Construction Company of Bluff City were two bidders on the project. The Birchfield bid was more than $300,000 below Baker Construction's proposal of $699,000. Representatives of both companies were on hand for the opening.
  The city of Elizabethton won a $500,000 Community Block Development Grant (CBDG) to fund the infrastructure project in 2001. The grant required a 20 percent match from the city totaling $110,000. Funding for the match was split between the city's 2004 and 2005 budget years.
  "Needless to say, we are very pleased with this bid," said Wauford who indicated the discrepancy between the grant amount and bid price could free up dollars for additional capital projects around the city.
  Before the construction project can begin, City Council must accept the bid by Birchfield. Ornduff said council members could consider the bid at their next meeting on July 8.
  The city owns the water line system in Watauga. The system was originally part of the Watauga Utility District that was purchased by the city along with two other utility districts in the 1980s.
  "Those lines are antiquated and have been due for replacement for a number of years," said Ornduff who estimated the lines were originally placed underground during the 1950s.
  The bid contract calls for the job to be completed in 120 days.
  Wauford also said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation were reviewing applications to allow the relocation of the Doe River water transmission line.
  Encased in a concrete shell, the 16-inch water line extends 240 feet over a badly decayed bridge on the abandoned U.S. Highway 19E in Valley Forge. City officials made replacing the line a priority last year after an engineering report warned that the bridge's instability threatened the city's supply of potable water. Connected to the Hampton spring source, the line supplies water to roughly 30 percent of the city's utility customers.
  The city was approved for an "imminent threat" CBDG grant administered through the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development in January to relocate the water line. The CBDG grant funds over 80 percent of costs associated with relocating the line. The Wauford firm estimated relocating the line via a trench-cut beneath the Doe River to cost roughly $350,000. The CBDG grant provides $290,000 leaving the city's funding end at $59,900.
  Wauford said he had received a letter on Thursday from the Tennessee Valley Authority stating the city did not need a section 26a permit from the agency to enter the river. Corps of Engineers and TDEC have a maximum of 90 days to review the applications and approve or deny the request. Wauford said the city submitted the applications roughly 25 days ago.
  "We are probably 60 days from getting approval," he said.