City to award $1M for road work


By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Monday, February 12, 2018

Despite voicing concerns about high prices and quality of work, Elizabeth City officials are looking to award almost $1 million in road work to RPC Contracting.

At a Finance Committee meeting last week, City Council recommended awarding a contract of up to $934,287 to Kitty Hawk-based RPC Contracting for resurfacing work on roads throughout the city.

Council is slated to give final approval to the contract Monday night. Even though the finance panel includes the entire council, it cannot take final action on any items.

Every few years, Elizabeth City uses road funding accumulated from state appropriations for citywide street repairs. The city advertised last year for repairs to a long list of streets, but had trouble getting bids on the work. That meant it couldn't open bids until last month, when RPC bid $1.8 million to repair all the roads. RPC’s was the lower of two bids. Raleigh-based Turner Asphalt bid $3.35 million to complete the work.

With only $950,000 available to spend, City Manager Rich Olson and Public Utilities Director Joe Pearce proposed trimming back on the planned road work at Thursday’s meeting. Their list of streets slated for repairs includes, among others, parts of Corsair Circle, Davis Avenue, Edgewood Drive, Fearing Street, Griffin Street, and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

Though recommending the finance panel award RPC the contract, Olson commented, “Unfortunately, we really only have two asphalt companies in this area, RPC and Barnhill.”

He continued, “We've been trying to solicit more asphalt companies because, we have good asphalt companies, but we do think they've been charging us a little bit more than they should.”

He said he based that conclusion on unit prices that companies charge in larger cities like Raleigh and Durham.

Pearce added later that the city had invited asphalt companies statewide to send bids, but the costs of transporting hot asphalt long distances make it too costly for them to do the work. Pearce also noted that Barnhill didn't bid on the work because it is busy with state road projects.

Councilor Jeannie Young asked about how “accountable” RPC is, and whether it's fixed its road work when the city's not satisfied with it. The city should get better service if it's paying more, she suggested.

Pearce said the city could withhold 5 percent of the contract award to try to compel contractors to fix unacceptable work. Five percent may not sound like much, but withholding it could mean RPC doesn't make a profit on the work, he said.

Councilor Rickey King, council’s mayor pro tem, said his intention wasn’t to “bash” RPC, but he said it had resurfaced Brooks Avenue several years ago and the road is still “terrible.”

Acknowledging Brooks Avenue is uneven and “a little bit like a roller coaster,” Olson said that the city replaced utility lines under the road before RPC resurfaced it, and those lines need to continue settling.

Pearce said the roads the city selected for resurfacing have stable underground utility lines, meaning they shouldn't turn out like Brooks Avenue.

Olson also recommended the city hire GET Solutions to oversee the project; engineering firms are commonly hired to supervise large construction projects. Council will also consider awarding GET Solutions a contract Monday for $15,713.

Pearce said city staff will also routinely check on the project, and that the work should start in March and be finished before July 1.

Notably, the city's road project will not include West Main Street, which Councilor Anita Hummer said is in such bad shape it's damaging people's vehicles.

Olson and Pearce agreed the road needs attention, but said the city needs to complete some $1 million in sewer work before the road is resurfaced. The city can't afford that work yet, Olson said.