MORGANTOWN — The construction timeline for the Morgantown Utility Board’s Upper Popenoe Run stream and sewer project is being pushed back.
MUB General Manager Mike McNulty said Tuesday the initial goal of starting construction in 2023 is no longer realistic as the utility is struggling to collect the property easements necessary to move forward.
Of the 60 easements needed, MUB has about 25 in hand.
The process is being handled by a right-of-way agent hired by the engineering firm of record for the project, E.L. Robinson Engineering.
McNulty said this is one of the largest projects MUB has undertaken in terms of the number of right-of-way considerations required.
“We’re running into the issue of absentee property owners and rental properties. We’re having a bit of a challenge locating everyone. I think over 90% of the property owners have been contacted, but getting those rights-of-way back, they’re not coming back as fast as we’d like,” McNulty told MUB’s Board of Directors.
He explained the project cannot commence until every property easement is collected.
“Even if we did have to do a condemnation, we’d have to have that order beforehand. Because if you sign contracts with a contractor and they can’t get on a piece of property, now you’re responsible for the delay in the project,” McNulty said. “We don’t want that to happen.”
Following the meeting, McNulty said involving the courts is the absolute last resort.
“We want to work with every property owner. Sometimes you have to talk to them two or three times to get them to understand we really need this, and also understand that every property is going to improve because of this project,” he said.
The work will actually be two separate jobs running simultaneously — the restoration of the upper portion of the Popenoe Run stream and the replacement of an undersized, 60-plus-year-old, broken clay sewer line that runs parallel to the stream.
The project will stretch from the stadium parking lot side of Willowdale Road and run between Richland Avenue and Randolph Road to Hoffman Avenue, where it bends and runs behind the homes on Amherst Road to Stewart Street, near Shorty Anderson’s Auto Service.
It will also include sewer and stormwater improvements in the area of Hoffman Avenue and Bradley Street.
Funding for the work, previously estimated at $2.6 million, will come by way of $1 million in American Rescue Plan Act money from both the city of Morgantown and Monongalia County. MUB will pick up the remainder.