Pembroke Town Council hears streetscape project getting more expensive

Tomeka Sinclair, The Robesonian, Lumberton, N.C.
·5 min read

May 4—PEMBROKE — Phase 1 of the Union Chapel Road Streetscape project has hit a few snags, Town Council here learned Monday during a project update.

The construction cost for Phase 1 of the streetscape improvement project has increased by nearly $52,000, Council learned during its regular business meeting. With this fifth change order the project has gone from $466,338 to $525,988.50.

The change order was needed because of unforeseen issues, including "unexpected buried utilities not on any municipal drawings, existing grading problems that involve more than one work phase, buried tanks, concrete under the asphalt," among other things, according to an email from Rivers & Associates Inc., the project's engineer.

Project manager Allison Platt, of Allison Platt & Associates, explained in detail the cause for the change order and the halt in construction. She said it is common for problems like this to arise in the midst of construction.

"Old streetscapes are always a problem," Platt said. "It's sort of like a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle."

The town secured a $5.2 million federal Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development, or BUILD, grant that will pay for most of the downtown improvements over the next two years.

Phase 1 of the plan, which began in November, includes new brick sidewalks, improved lighting, utility upgrades and landscaping along Union Chapel Road sidewalks between Second and Third streets, all designed to create a safer, more inviting street for residents and visitors.

Also on Monday, Council voted 3-1 to approve closing two railroad crossings as part of an agreement between the town, N.C. Department of Transportation and CSX Transportation Inc. to make several updates to railroad crossings throughout town.

The needed improvements were determined by the results of a Traffic Separation Study Public Input Plan conducted by the NCDOT and adopted a year ago. Approval of the agreement will kick-start the process of implementing some of the recommendations outlined in the study.

The project includes the closing of crossings on Jones and Vance streets and adding fencing from Odum Street to Vance Street, building a Z gate crossing and adding fencing from University Road to Odum Street for pedestrian crossings at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke while removing pedestrian crossings in order to construct sidewalks to Odum Street.

Council member Theresa Locklear cast the no vote. She opposed closing the Vance Street crossing.

Improvements also include adding pavement marking and signage upgrades at the crossing on Second Street, installing queue cutter signals and four quad gates at the N.C. 711 crossing, and resurfacing the crossing and widening the east side of the crossing on Barker Street to account for the installation of a pedestrian crossing and fencing.

In other business, Council approved a service agreement with the Wooten Company which is performing engineering duties related to the expansion of the town's waste water treatment plant. The engineering firm was suggested after members of a review committee, consisting of Thomas, Skip Green & Associates and town Disaster Recovery Coordinator Victoria Carter, reviewed firms that has applied for the job.

The town was awarded $6,377,992 in grant money from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration to improve the town's waste water treatment plant to enable its sewer system to have flooding resiliency, to improve the treatment process and to have more capacity at its plant to meet current and future economic development needs.

Council also voted to allocate $15,000 of the current fiscal year budget to add speed bumps to residential streets that have experienced a high volume of vehicular traffic. The decision was prompted after Mayor Greg Cummings, on behalf of himself and other Pembroke residents, spoke of safety concerns posed by speeding motorists during the public comment portion of April's regular meeting.

Town administrators will consider Harry West Lane and Pine and Lowry streets as potential sites for the bumps.

"There's a lot of children in these streets we're talking about," Councilman Larry McNeill said.

Council, for the third time, tabled a request to amend the zoning map to rezone a 4.5-acre tract of land at 7674 N.C. 711 from an Industrial District to R-8 Multiple-Family Dwelling. The request was made by Henry Oxendine, who wants to repurpose the property to accommodate apartment construction. Again, the matter was tabled pending a recommendation from the town's Planning Board.

Tabled by Council for a second time was a request to amend the town's zoning map to rezone a vacant property on Fourth Street from an R-10 District to C-1 Central Business District pending a recommendation from the Planning Board. H&M Developers, LLC is requesting the amendment.

In other business, Council:

— Heard a presentation from Brenda Hunt-Emanuel, director of the Borderbelt Aids Resources Team, who requested financial aid for the purpose of hiring extra staff for its food pantry. The agency provides services to HIV-infected patients and people suffering with AIDS.

— Amended the town's 2020-21 fiscal year budget for the purpose of buying a 2021 Dodge Durango Pursuit vehicle after the previous detective vehicle was wrecked. The vehicle will cost $37,600.

— Set a public hearing date of June 7 to consider the voluntary annexation of a property on Brooks Street. Town Manager Tyler Thomas and his wife, Chelsea Leigh Thomas, are the owners of the property and are making the request.

Tomeka Sinclair can be reached at [email protected] or910-416-5865.