Water interconnect slow progress

Published 11:33 pm Thursday, April 18, 2019

Saluda only receives two RFQs from engineers 


SALUDA—There were only two engineering firms who returned requests for qualifications to analyze the issues with the water line connecting Columbus, Saluda and Tryon’s water systems 

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Saluda City Manager Jonathan Cannon said one qualification was received from McGill & Associates and another from Withers & RavenelHe said he is unsure at this point if he will have to resubmit the proposals to get a third quote. The request was for qualifications and does not include any cost estimates yet on how much the engineering fee will cost the towns.  

“I sent it out to a number of companies and several came back and said they aren’t interested,” said Cannon.  

Saluda sent out the requests recently in hopes of hiring an engineering firm to find the issues with the system and recommend repairs.  

The requests were sent by Saluda, on behalf of Saluda, Columbus and Tryon, who jointly own the system. The water line is located along Howard Gap Road between Tryon and Saluda and was installed several years ago to allow the three towns to exchange water in emergency situations. The towns already know there are issues with the water line and system and settled a lawsuit with the engineer who designed the system. The towns sued engineer Joel Wood, who designed the system, and were awarded $300,000, but that total did not include attorney fees, which took almost half of the settlement.  

Because the water line is located along Howard Gap Road, there are also other potential issues since heavy rains damaged the road last May and recently. A portion of Howard Gap Road has been closed since January as it is crumbling. The water line runs along that section of the road that is closed.   

Cannon said the engineering firm the towns need to analyze the system and make recommendations have to have experience with interconnections, experience with landslides and flooding. He said once the proposals hit $30,000, informal bids are required and once the quote hits $90,000, towns are required to go out for formal bids.  

“Once we get these numbers back from the engineer, that’s when we sit down with the other boards to see what we want to do about this,” Cannon said.  

The process for actually having a working system seems to not be far in the future, if at all. Columbus has said from the start it will not spend any more money on the system after the lawsuit settlement is spent. The towns could seek grants to actually fix the system, but all three enacted water user fees years ago to pay back an approximate $1.5 million loan to construct the system. The towns received a state grant to pay for another $1.5 million. The towns are expected to pay back the loan over 20 years, beginning with the completed construction of the line in 2008.