MILLSBORO – The town of Millsboro’s new 1 million-gallon water tank on the White Farm property off Hardscrabble Road failed to hit the scheduled mid-July completion date.
Town leaders are now weighing potential options that could be levied against Caldwell Tank Inc., the Kentucky-based tank contracting company.
Carrie Kruger, Millsboro’s town engineer, shared the update at the Monday mayor/council meeting.
“The tank is not ready yet,” said Ms. Kruger. “They had a bit of an issue with filling it. We’ve done some investigations. We’ve let them know. We wanted a written recommendation from them as to what they think that we should do. We received that this evening. The recommendation is to try to fill it again. So, we are going to open the valve and fill it up. They need to re-disinfect it.”
According to Ms. Kruger, Caldwell Tank was hoping to fill the tank by the end of this week, get it disinfected next week and get analytical results to the state’s Office of Drinking Water to get the approval to operate by the end of next week.
“I think that’s a little ambitious – to try to think that we’re going to actually get that approval to operate by the end of next week,” Ms. Kruger said. “We’ve been asking for a written schedule, which we had not received.”
“How long does it take to fill up the tank?” Millsboro councilman Jim Kells asked.
“It’s going to take a few days – minimum,” said Millsboro Public Works Director Kenny Niblett.
Kevin Gallagher, vice president of Caldwell Tank based in Louisville, provided an update Wednesday.
“The tank is being filled successfully at this time. Certainly, Caldwell is committed to the successful competition of the project. I understand the tank will be put into service shortly,” said Mr. Gallagher. “Certainly, in any construction project there are many, many factors and tasks. Again, we’re absolutely committee to successful completion and we actually believe that ultimately it will be determined that the project was completed on time.”
The new water tank was to have been online July 14, Ms. Kruger said. As spelled out in the contract, Caldwell could face monetary penalties of varying amounts per day based on “substantial” or “final” completion dates, Ms. Kruger said.
With the missed deadline at three weeks and counting, Millsboro Mayor Michelle Truitt wants the project completed as soon as possible.
“The question being, if we allow them to keep this on, we’re still not going to be done in the fall. It needs to be done now,” Mayor Truitt said. “So, I am beyond excuses. Get it online.”
A certified letter dated July 19 was sent to Caldwell, restating what was already in the contract.
“We’re committed to the town,” Mr. Gallagher said. “We’re committee to the contract and to the agreement to a successful completion.”
There is reluctance from town leaders to play hardball at this stage of the project.
“Basically, the thinking was we are near the conclusion of the project, let’s try to get the project wrapped up. As long as it doesn’t take much longer to get to the finish line, no action may be taken,” said Millsboro Town Manager Sheldon Hudson. “If there continues to be delays, after the completion, the town certainly is open to considering pursuing liquidated damages. We also made the point that we granted kind of an unofficial grace period to them. We wanted to make sure they were aware that we weren’t just trying to be hardnosed. It’s just we need the tower … a growing town.”
Councilman Larry Gum did note these are “different times than I have ever seen in my life. Getting supplies, getting people to work, it is a very difficult time.”
“I think we’ll have to review everything that happened past the substantial competition date to determine actually how many days you would assess liquidated damages for,” said Mr. Niblett.
Ms. Kruger informed council electrical contractor work was also not completed as of the Aug. 2 council meeting, but that was a minor issue involving heat tracing that could be a punch list item.
Once in operation, the tank will augment the town’s system which includes towers on Irons Avenue, Church Street near the water plant, a temporary water plant at Plantation Lakes and the tower in Dagsboro, which currently is considered part of Millsboro’s system, Mr. Hudson said.
“Luckily, we have the temporary water plant at Plantation Lakes that can assist us with providing more water … and it’s close to the tank, closer than our source at Church Street,” Ms. Kruger said. “So hopefully that will help let us fill it up faster.”
Neighboring Dagsboro has interest in the competition of Millsboro’s tank project. Dagsboro, whose town water supply is provided by Millsboro through a 20-year agreement through December 2022, is looking to tap into the Artesian Grater Dagsboro Water Treatment Plant at some point this year – by Sept. 1 or possibly before.
Earlier this year, Millsboro requested that Dagsboro not tap into the Artesian network until Millsboro’s new White Farm property water tower off Del. 20 is operational. That request stemmed from a Jan. 12 meeting of representatives from Millsboro, Dagsboro and Artesian.
Artesian’s Dagsboro plant will provide an additional supply of 2 million gallons per day to the region. It will serve Dagsboro and Frankford as well as other parts of southeastern Sussex County.