042717 Pawleys Island: Wire project will continue (underground) into summer
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Pawleys Island: Wire project will continue (underground) into summer

By Nikki Best
Coastal Observer

The town of Pawleys Island’s underground utilities project is in danger of running behind and Sumter Utilities, contractors for Santee Cooper, requested to work through the summer months to catch up on time lost.

“Underground wire is behind schedule about three months,” Town Administrator Ryan Fabbri said.

All phases of the four year project are slated to complete by May 2018, but that end date is in jeopardy without the makeup time. Contractors are currently boring to bury conduit in Phase 2, north of the North Causeway, and Phase 3, south of the South Causeway. Phase 1 was finished last spring between the causeways. It included adding a supply line along the North Causeway to create a looped system.

The work involves power and cable lines. Phone lines are already underground.

The project was never on schedule, but it made up time as it progressed. It should have begun in fall 2014, but phases 1 and 2 started six months late due to lack of easements from property owners. Phase 3 was supposed to start in September 2016 but didn’t, again because of easements. “The hurricane actually

bought me a few more months to get the necessary easements to begin Phase 3,” Fabbri said. “Phase 2 was stalled for two months.”

As of today, there is only one outstanding easement for the project on the island. More than 500 easements were collected so that work could begin, and continue on schedule.

Estimates for the project were given in 2013 and the town has paid the $3 million bill in installments as each phase began. Fabbri says the cost of the project should not change if the workers fall behind schedule, as it is paid in full, but he is waiting for written confirmation from Santee Cooper.

“They’ve asked if we would allow them to work the summer months only pulling wire,” Fabbri said of the contractors.

Pulling wire would not take up the space or cause the same amount of noise as current work. It would involve a pickup truck with a spool of wire and less workers, Fabbri said. “It’s not as invasive,” he said. “You’re not going to have ten guys standing around a big hole in the road.”

Burying conduit in Phase 2 is nearly complete and for Phase 3, “The plan is for them to be completely done with boring by Memorial Day weekend,” Fabbri said.

At a meeting this month, Council Member Mike Adams clarified there would be no Phase 3 work during tourist season. Springs Avenue is too narrow. The only work in question at the meeting was Phase 2, but Phase 3 could come up again later in the summer, Fabbri said. He says the Bird’s Nest area on the south end is prime for work during summer since it would not interfere with tourist traffic.

“It’s not like a thoroughfare on the way to somebody’s house,” he said. “So they’ve asked for Phase 2. Phase 3 we can address if we get to that point.”

Pawleys Island Realty and The Lachicotte Co., which handle the majority of vacation rentals on the island, are in favor of the work continuing through tourist season, Fabbri said.

“Well if the rental companies are good with it, why wouldn’t be we be?” Council Member Sarah Zimmerman said.

The council views the request as a modification of the contract. It granted permission for contractors to continue work pulling wire in the Phase 2 area during summer. No work will occur during the week of July 4.

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