Credit: Credit: Hazen & Sawyer

The cost of relocating the Rivanna Pump Station in the Woolen Mills neighborhood has come in millions of dollars below expectations.

The contentious project divided Charlottesville and Albemarle County leaders who disagreed on the best location to upgrade the facility. Price was a determining factor, yet after more than a year of discussions, no agreement has been reached between the city and the county as to how to split the costs.

The Ohio-based firm of Adams Robinson submitted a $23.3 million bid to relocate the facility to the grounds of the Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant and extend a sewer line via a deep tunnel.

“The lowest responsive bid is $5.7 million lower than the engineer’s recent detailed estimate for construction and will lower the total project costs,” said Thomas L. Frederick Jr., executive director of the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority, in an email.

After the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality ordered the RWSA to upgrade the capacity of the facility by June 2017, city and county officials spent several months discussing potential solutions.

“The project is needed to provide the capacity to the sewer transmission system … to contain the high sewer system flows that occur during a large rain event,” Frederick said.

Options included building a new station at the existing site, adjacent to the city’s Riverview Park, or building a new facility across the Rivanna River in Albemarle County.

The engineering firm Hazen & Sawyer estimated the total cost of building a tunnel to extend the sewer line to the Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant would be around $40 million. That was $15 million more than its estimate of keeping the station at its current location.

“$40 million was the estimate for the cost of all total project expenses and included contingencies set when the project was in the preliminary stage before it was designed,” Frederick said.

Frederick said the bid does not include money spent during the public process to determine a solution. Other costs include architectural renderings, legal expenses and right-of-way acquisition.

“We have not yet revised the total project budget, but will do so after the [RWSA] board awards the bid, and I would anticipate there to be $5.7 million in real savings,” Frederick said. “With the savings here it looks like we bid at a good time.”

At a December 2011 meeting, the three city representatives on the RWSA board voted for the relocation option, whereas the three county representatives voted to build in place. The county’s members cited higher cost as a reason.

RWSA board Chairman Michael Gaffney voted with the city.

Since then, the city and the county have failed to reach an agreement on how to split the cost for the facility, as well as other capital projects.

“We are negotiating the cost sharing for not only this project, but nearly $80 million for four projects that relate to increasing capacity to prevent sewer overflows into our rivers,” said Gary O’Connell, executive director of the Albemarle County Service Authority.

“It’s always good news when we get good bids,” O’Connell added.

In all, six bids were received. The RWSA received a low bid of $18.9 million from PC Construction, but the proposal was determined to be not qualified. The highest bid, at $29.8 million, was submitted by Thalle Construction.

Adams Robinson previously has worked on the upgrade of the Moores Creek facility, as well as the Moores Creek Pump Station.

Frederick said he will ask the RWSA board to accept the bid at its Dec. 17 meeting. If a contract is signed by the end of January, he said he expects construction to begin in February.

“It would be desirable to have a cost-share agreement completed as soon as possible, but the lack of such agreement is not a legally valid reason to delay construction,” Frederick said.

Both Frederick and O’Connell will appear before the Albemarle Board of Supervisors to provide an update on various water and sewer projects Wednesday morning.