Engineers update Hancock officials on status of wastewater projects

by Geoff Fox

Representatives from RK&K, the engineering firm the town has hired to build the new wastewater facility, gave town officials a few updates on their projects and where they stand.

The first project update was a culvert replacement along Pennsylvania Avenue near Food Lion, which RK&K is rehabilitating. Bids are to be opened in the near future.

There was a recent pre-bid meeting where seven people met with the town and RK&K, said Town Manager Mike Faith.

Project Manager for RK&K Rhiannon Dodge added some of contractors who were at the meeting had done work for the State Highway Administration.

“Hopefully we’ll get some good bids,” she said.

Dodge added the firm is still waiting on permits from Washington County at this point for the pump station along Pennsylvania Avenue. MDE permits have already been obtained.

Funding for the pump station is coming through grants from the USDA and CDBG, said RK&K Director John Cole. Initially, the town was looked at as a contributor toward the project, but it is fully-funded and the town’s portion is not needed and can be used elsewhere.

Faith said while they’re waiting on the county permits, they’re also working on easements for possible property acquisition for the culvert project.

The town is paying for the culvert project through America Rescue Plan Act funds that is reserved for such a project. Faith said the cost is around $140,000.

The pump station, Dodge said, is around $1.5 million and fully funded.

Because of the funding for the pump station project, Faith said they have to be careful in the easements in terms of offering a fair market value.

“If we purchase easement, which we’re going to have to, we can’t use the grant money for that,” Faith said. “That comes out of the general fund, but it will be a minimal expense.”

He said two easements are “nailed down” and another is very close. It will be a minimal cost to the town.

The easements are for the pump station project as sewer lines are being moved to a different location to help protect the stream, Faith said.

When it comes to the treatment plant, Dodge said RK&K would be installing a couple aerators and a composite sampler at the site.

She said that would help the town meet their permit and sample effectively so the MDE doesn’t fine them until the new plant is built.

These pieces won’t be used at the new site as the lagoons will be going away, but the sampler equipment will be utilized in the new facility.

The town has been under a consent decree from the state for a number of years because the lagoons don’t meet the standards for affluent discharge.

Faith added the town is trying to have a good faith effort in doing what they’re supposed to do and be as compliant as they can.

Dodge added she received a task order for a lead service line inventory, which is due in October.  This allows the town to see what water lines in their system are lead lines on both the customer and town side to determine all of them.

Dodge has to work with Faith to figure out a way to get word and instructions to residents and gave an example of a previous project.

In Smithsburg, Dodge said, they sent out a QR code that led to a site where customers could take and submit a picture of their line in their house, letting them know what they think the material is, and it is linked to their account.

“That’s been really helpful in determining the customer side,” she said.

Faith said if there’s a way to get better customer participation, “I’m all ears.”

In Smithsburg, Dodge said gift cards were distributed to those who filled out a survey, their names were put into a hat and at the following meeting, their name was drawn for a gift card. She added others have done a free month of service.

Town officials in Hancock would have to come up with a possible idea on how to increase participation in the pipe inventory effort.