Fixing water line poses town risks

by Kelly Corbett
Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Staff photo by Joshua Curry 

The town water line located underneath the home at 4 Sunset Ave. will undergo an estimated six weeks of demolition and construction.

The Town of Wrightsville Beach will valve off a water line crossing underneath the home at 4 Sunset Ave. for periods of demolition and construction, temporarily fixing a problem first realized a decade ago.

The option, one of four presented to the Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen on Thursday, Jan. 23, poses town risks but was approved unanimously following a lengthy discussion.

The risks associated with abandoning the 6-inch water main include possibly delaying fire department response time. Also, the contractor will be constructing the house over an active water line, which could result in damage to the new home and surrounding homes.

“We’re obviously accelerating this to accommodate the construction timeline,” Alderwoman Lisa Weeks said. “… I don’t think that the property owner should have to pay for this.”

With the decision comes an $18,500 budget amendment, expected to cover project construction, from the water and sewer general reserves to the water contracted services line item.

Town staff will start working on the project immediately, finding an engineer to complete the work. Town water and sewer department staff will also work to speed up the process from two months to an estimated six weeks of work.

The water line appears to have been constructed in 1961, town manager Tim Owens said.

The current house was built on the property in 2003, and the town realized the situation in 2004.

Town attorney John Wessell said 10 years ago the Town of Wrightsville Beach tried to get an easement from all of the homes impacted by the water line.

“They were notified that there was a water line there, and we allowed them to build over it,” Owens said.

The new owner, Jim Petrilla, said he had no idea the water line was underneath the home.

Previous owners John and Elizabeth Leonard sold the house on March 4, 2013, after three years of trying to sell the property.

Realtor Betsy Leonard, of the Intracoastal Realty office in Lumina Station, was the listing agent for the property. Realtor Jessica Edwards, of Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage, was the selling agent.

“I know that the prior owner knew about it,” Wessell said. “… They were contacted and asked to give an easement.”

Petrilla and Wessell disagreed if the town bears the responsibility to correct the issue. 

The town issued a demolition permit in December 2013.

A similar situation was fixed in the early 90s to a neighboring property, Mayor Bill Blair said.

The line cuts across six properties, but has only been repaired on one neighboring property when the line was relocated due to construction without an easement.

The most conservative option was estimated at about $6,000, and would have delayed the home construction until a water line on Meier Street could be constructed with the existing water line relocated. The other two options were to relocate the water line around the house in opposite directions.

Owens said they were difficult options town staff put together that fix the problem short term. He added later that one positive is nobody is connected for service to the water line.

“That made it a little bit easier,” Owens said. “Guess we did something right for a change.”

On Friday, Jan. 24, the town made contact with Sepi Engineering of Wilmington, which is currently working on permitting the project.

“It’s all contingent upon when we can get the permit,” Owens said on Monday, Jan. 27. “We hope that the fast track process moves it along sooner than not, but you never know what kind of things you can run into, whether it be something construction related or permit related.”


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