Georgetown drain project ready, funded

For the long-awaited Georgetown drainage project, the third time is the charm.

Construction, which was bid out unsuccessfully twice before, is finally under way.

Preparation for construction began this week for the approximately $14 million project designed to solve some of the stormwater issues that have plagued downtown. The plan has been hampered by a lack of funding for years, said Mike Barbee, program manager for the Department of Transportation.

In 2002 some state funding was identified for the project, and the city of Georgetown, the county's transportation committee and the DOT worked to develop a plan, Barbee said.

The project was put out for bid in 2005, but even the lowest bid was higher than the amount of funding they had, he said.

The city, DOT and others went back to work on the project, finding ways to make it less expensive. It was put out for bid again in 2007. Once again, the project was too expensive and was, essentially, put on a shelf.

"There wasn't any means to fully fund the project," Barbee said.

Barbee said the project is not "a traditional SCDOT type project."

"It requires a number of items, pumps, pump systems [that are] unusual, specialty items," he said.

And those specialty items are the reason the project has such a high price tag.

Finally the project got some additional funding from the federal stimulus bill, and a bid was accepted in February.

Setting up for construction began at the end of August, and Lane Mixon, the water utilities director, said city officials and DOT have had weekly meetings since then to discuss the status of the project

Anna Levy, the resident construction engineer, said crews are now "trying to get up this week to get more work going on next week."

She said the first site for the work is at the corner of Front and Fraser streets, near City Hall.

Levy said the project will take two years to complete. But there are some very specific timetables for certain parts of the project, like Fraser Street.

She said the work on Fraser Street can take place only during a 60-day window between March 15 and May 15, and during that window there is a 129-hour limit to the amount of time that street will be totally closed.

She said work on Wood and Front streets will also shut down those roads for a time but "those aren't going to cause nearly the headache as Fraser."

Mixon said the construction is "going to be a major disruption."

"But the end product - that's what we've got to look forward to," he said.