Front Royal sewage plant comes in under estimate

FRONT ROYAL – Town officials plan to move forward with a contractor on a $53.3 million upgrade of Front Royal’s sewage treatment plant.

Front Royal must upgrade its wastewater treatment plant to comply with tighter environmental regulations for such facilities.

Town Council heard a presentation Monday from the engineering consultant GHD on the project costs and the bids contractors submitted last month. GHD had estimated a project construction cost of $47.81 million.

Adams Robinson Enterprises of Dayton, Ohio, submitted the apparent lowest bid of $44.47 million, according to the list provided at the council work session. Other bids ranged from $45.61 million offered by English Construction Company to $48.3 million submitted by MEB General Contractors.

Adams Robinson specializes in wastewater treatment plant construction and has built dozens of projects in the eastern United States, including one in Culpeper, said Thor Young, principal manager with GHD for water and wastewater.

“We’ve no doubt that they’re capable of doing the project,” Young said. “They had good references that reported they’d done the work, good quality work in the past.”

The total project cost of $53 million includes a $2.25 million upgrade on the plant septage receiving station used treat waste collected from septic systems in Warren County. The county will share in the cost of the receiving station. The cost of this part of the project came in below the engineer’s $2.6-million estimate.

Front Royal qualified for $11.87 million in grant money from the state clean water quality improvement fund — bringing the cost down to about $41 million. The town also qualified for a loan through a state program at zero-percent interest to cover the remaining cost of the project.

Front Royal’s share of the project cost will be approximately $37 million, according to Town Manager Steve Burke.

In addition to the grants and Warren County’s contribution, the town also saved money on the project by purchasing a piece of equipment for the upgrade from Round Hill.

Finance Director Kim Gilkey-Breeden talked briefly about how the town plans to pay for the project. The town will need to hold a public hearing Dec. 8 on a resolution to move forward with borrowing up to $50 million through the Virginia Resource Authority for the project, Gilkey-Breeden said.

Councilman Eugene Tewalt mentioned that the town has raised its sewer rates over the past few years and asked if Front Royal would need to impose more increases to cover the cost of the project.

“We really don’t know because the last two years we did not take into account what Dominion [power plant] would bring us or what the [regional] jail would bring us,” Gilkey-Breeden said. “We didn’t want to throw those factors in until they were up and running.”

Financial consultants with Burton & Associates are expected to meet with town officials in January or February to discuss the project cost impact on rates, Gilkey-Breeden explained. She said the consultants should give a recommendation in time for town officials to incorporate that information into the crafting of the next fiscal budget.

The total cost also includes $2.6 million for design engineering, $3.7 million for construction administration and a 5-percent contingency of $2.2 million to cover unanticipated expenses.

Tewalt asked why the construction administration cost appeared so high. Construction administration costs cover the salaries of two owner’s representatives on the project site full-time, testing and special inspections and engineering during the construction phase, Young explained.

Front Royal has approved the site development plan and the zoning permit for the project. Once the state approves the stormwater permit request, possibly in mid December, Warren County can approve the building permit and erosion and sediment control permit, Young explained.

Town officials expect to issue a notice of award to Adams Robinson next week and the notice to proceed in February. The project is estimated to reach substantial completion July 30, 2017, and final completion on Sept. 28, 2017.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or