Town of Emmitsburg
300A S. Seton Ave Emmitsburg, Maryland

May 2004

Completing town projects

For several months the town of Emmitsburg has been working on replacing a major sewer trunk line. After some sewer spills, the Town Council agreed to approve an emergency repair of approximately 3000 feet of a twelve-inch diameter pipe that runs parallel to Flat Run. As you can see, 14 months after the emergency repair was approved, construction of this project has not yet begun.

The reason for such a long time to begin construction is very simple but yet, it can be very deceiving and misunderstanding to many. When the town approves a project, it is done very much like most individuals do when planning work or purchases within their own households. Such as planning to purchase a new home, doing some major home repairs or your considering the purchase of a new car. No matter what it is, at some point you must make the decision of which item you are going to do next. Although you make the final decision, in most cases that does not mean the money is available to pay off the expense in full, immediately. Therefore, the next step is to resolve how to pay for it. That is what the town did over a year ago.

We approved the project and staff was directed to find the funding. After contacting the federal government and the state government to seek grant and or low interest loan assistance, the federal government did not offer any funding assistance; the Maryland Department of Environment (MDE) offered a very low interest loan for up to $600,000 with a 1.1 percent interest rate. This funding was secured in the July 2003 Town Meeting.

After the money was secured, the staff was then able to begin the process of having engineering plans developed to define the scope of work. As one of the conditions of the loan agreement, MDE must review and approve the plans prior to the town advertising for bidders. After MDE reviews the engineering plans and provides the town with changes they request be incorporated with the engineer plans, the plans are returned to our engineering firm for corrections.

After all the appropriate reviews and updates have been completed, the town may then move forward on advertising the project. MDE also has strict advertising requirements that must be followed. Bids are normally accepted for a minimum period of 30 days. Once the bidding period is over, all bids are opened and review by the town's engineering firm. The engineering firm and the town staff then make a contract recommendation to the Town Council. Because MDE requires that the bidder with the lowest responsible bid be awarded the contract, the Town Council must make their approval contingent upon MDE's approval.

After MDE confirms that they agree with the Town Council's vote, the contract can then be awarded and the contractor is given notice to proceed. Normally on this size project the contractor will be given 30 days to mobilize his crews and equipment to begin work. In our case, the town of Emmitsburg went through all the above steps up to recommending a contractor for the sewer trunk line.

The town received only one bid for the project, which was nearly double the engineer's proposed cost estimate. With only one bid at nearly double the expected cost of $350,000 to $400,000, the town rejected the lone bid of just over $700,000 and decided to modify the scope of work and re-bid the project to provide an opportunity for other bidders to bid on the project. Currently the town is having those improvements made to the engineering plans. We are expecting to be re-bidding the project within the next 30 days.

As you can see, there are many steps required to begin a project, securing a funding source, creating engineer plans, MDE approval, bidding process, bid approval, award contract, contractor mobilizing crews and equipment, etc. All of these and many other requirements take a minimum of 30 days each, many such as funding approval, creating engineering plans, MDE review and approval of plans normally take 60 to 120 days each (and sometimes more). Since most requirements must be completed before the next one can be approved, many items cannot be done simultaneously.

The town also has other projects in the works. Mountain View Road water line construction is set to begin mid May 2004 and engineering plans are currently being updated to replace the water line in South Seton Avenue. Also in the upcoming budget, I plan to have at least one other sewer line project identified with funding coming from the new Sewer and Water Enterprise Fund. By establishing a dedicated budget separate from the town's general fund, the town's Sewer and Water Enterprise was finalized last year. With the Sewer and Water Enterprise Fund in place, the town can seek funding for some projects in-house without the need to look for state and or federal loans.

If you have any questions, please feel free to call the town office, or e-mail me at

Jim Hoover

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