Columbus picks engineer for interconnect 

Published 11:04 pm Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Three towns receive two bids to assess issues with water connection 


COLUMBUS—The Town of Columbus approved hiring Withers-Ravenel engineers last week to assess the issues with the joint water interconnect.  

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Columbus Town Council met Thursday and approved the recommendation of the engineers made by the town manager.  

Columbus, Saluda and Tryon have a joint water line in order to exchange water in emergency situations that does not work.  

Columbus Town Manager Tim Barth told council that a few months ago council agreed to allow the City of Saluda to send out requests for qualifications, and only two engineering firms were interested.  

Barth said he spoke with Saluda City Manager Jonathan Cannon and Tryon Town Manager Zach Ollis and the consensus was for the managers to recommend Withers-Ravenel for the job.  

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.  

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.  

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 earlier this year the engineering firm the towns need to analyze the system and make recommendations have to have experience with interconnections, experience with landslides and flooding. Once all the towns approve the engineering firm, the firm will assess the damage, tell the towns what needs to be repaired to the system and give cost estimates to repair the damage.