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Paving material change delays road project

The Sylva Herald & Ruralite of Sylva, North Carolina

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Paving upgrades originally slated for this year in Forest Hills have been pushed back as part of a larger road improvement project.

Officials met Aug. 4 and again Aug. 10 to sort through some of the details for the next phase of the project. They voted unanimously during the latter meeting to delay re-paving Cave Springs Road due to an unforeseen rise in cost.

Work began several years ago with the resurfacing of North Country Club Drive, and potholes throughout the town were filled last summer.

This year, town board members placed a priority on Cave Springs Road, hoping to re-surface it with a lower-cost pavement called chip-and-seal. South Country Club Drive and two other town roads were scheduled to be re-paved with asphalt next year; however, conflicting opinions from paving contractors on whether chip-and-seal would be the best option for Cave Springs Road could delay that process.

Contractors who initially suggested chip-and-seal for Cave Springs now say asphalt is the more appropriate choice, Mayor Kolleen Begley said. Previously, board members were working with chip-and-seal estimates.

Board members weighed the pros and cons of the two choices Aug. 4, taking into consideration factors such as price, durability and traction during bad weather.

Town board member Carl Hooper said he prefers asphalt, mentioning how a chip-and-seal portion of South Country Club Drive hasn't held up over time. Begley said the more expensive option — asphalt — is supposed to last longer.

In regards to traction, it's also important to take into account which option will be able to endure the winter months, said town board member Clark Corwin.

"It probably doesn't matter what kind of friction surface you have if you're going to tear it up when you clear it," he said.

Ultimately, officials agreed to go with asphalt, though the price increase that comes with it raised other questions: Did the town set aside enough funds in this year's budget to still complete the work planned, and are the three firms bidding on the project — Parker Paving, WNC Paving and Owen Paving — basing their estimates on the same measurements?

After speaking with one of the contractors during the Aug. 4 meeting, officials discovered they were "comparing apples to oranges," as town board member Ron Mau put it.

The firms, looking at the condition of the roads in question, came up with bids for Cave Springs Road, South Country Club and Oak Forest drives, and Virginia Lane based on differing estimates of how much crushed rock would be needed for certain sections.

To make sure they were comparing apples to apples, town board members asked the firms to re-submit their bids, assuming for the sake of comparison, that they would need 3 inches of crushed rock for all of the paving work to be done.

Officials reconvened Aug. 10 once the new bids were in.

Although Owen Paving had the lowest projected cost, Begley said they were all pretty close at around $140,000 for the entire project, which includes paving for all four roads.

The 2015-16 fiscal year budget allotted $60,000 for Cave Springs. Half of that came from capital outlay — funds that were carried over from last year after a hefty surplus. Forest Hills also gets about $ 11,000 per year in Powell Bill funds from, the state to deal with town-maintained roads.

Still, substituting asphalt for chip-and-seal put a strain on the project budget.

Town board members wondered Aug. 10 if they could come up with enough money to do all of the work originally planned for this year.

They discussed several alternatives, such as re-paving part of Cave Springs this year and saving the rest for later, but didn't see that as a viable option.

"When people see that only part of a road is paved, what does that say to a person?" town board member Dan Perlmutter asked.

Officials also talked about skipping ahead to the next phase of the project — the South Country Club re-paving — and waiting to do Cave Springs once they can better plan for the costs.

Hooper questioned this option as well.

"I hesitate to spend that money this year out of order," he said. "What happens if we're sitting here next year about $30,000 short, and we spent it all on the loop (South Country Club)? I wouldn't want to do that. Who knows, maybe next year we can pave all of it."

In the end, officials decided to wait until next year to upgrade Cave Springs-.

Begley said the three firms will be again asked to re-submit their bids, based on the cost of materials at that time. She said although the price of materials could go up between now and this time next year, some of that increase could be offset by not being hit with a mobilization charge.

"The mobilization charge means that each time a contractor has to bring their equipment out to pave (like if it were split into three sections being paved over the next two years), they would have to charge a certain fee just to transport the equipment," she said in a follow-up interview.

Town board members stressed Aug. 10 they know residents have been looking forward to the road improvements and they are still committed to the project.

"We want to buy a quality product that's going to last and sustain value so that eight years from now we're not having to come back and do another round of services," said Corwin.

"I like the idea of having the whole thing (Cave Springs) paved. If we're going to do it, then do it," said Perlmutter. "But if we're not able to, then I think the conservative thing is to say, 'look, we just can't quite meet the full cost.'"

"Then everybody will be in the same boat," he said.

Copyright 2015 The Sylva Herald & Ruralite, Sylva, North Carolina. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: August 27, 2015

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