Newton gets budget surprise

When Newton leaders created a spending plan last summer, they hoped $250,000 would be enough money to fix one storm sewer culvert in the city.

On Tuesday city leaders learned that their budgeted sum won't fix one culvert on Ashe Avenue.

It will fix three.

In addition to addressing a crumbling culvert on North Ashe Avenue, Newton leaders approved construction and financing plans that will also replace culverts on North Frye Avenue and East 18th Street, as well.

Without repairs, roadways crossing the storm sewers could be in danger of collapse. A similar deteriorated culvert collapsed on East First Street following heavy rains during Tropical Depression Faye in August 2008. The key Newton street was closed, and travel for nearby residents was affected until December 2008.

"These culverts need to be replaced," Newton Public Works Director Wilce Martin for the huge 43-inch corrugated metal pipes. "They have been in place about 40 years. They are beginning to deteriorate. There is lateral movement (in the culverts), the streets around them are cracking, and rocks and other supports are falling."

Initially, replacing the culvert on North Ashe Avenue was expected to cost at least $250,000 base don year-old estimates. Those estimates were also for what Martin described as a "double-box concrete culvert."

Following the direction Hickory-based Wooten Engineering, the city will replace the North Ashe culvert following an alternative method using reinforced concrete pipe instead.

Doing so will save enough money to address the two other critical culverts he said, adding that the repair method isn't the only thing that has changed.

"The cost of materials and the cost of labor has come down," he said. "That has enabled us to look at all three culverts, rather than just one. These are top-priority culverts."

Newton solicited construction bids for the project from six companies.

Of the four companies that responded, the low bid of $198,875 was awarded to Iron Mountain Construction of Mountain City, Tenn. Design, inspection and management fees are estimated at $30,457 and the spending plan includes $20,577 in contingency funds.

The project will be funded over seven years through a $250,000 loan through BB&T with an annual percentage rate of 2.65 percent.