Firm to guide Rod­ney project

Engi­neer hired to de­sign pro­posed stormwa­ter pond

Newark Post - - FRONT PAGE - By KARIE SIM­MONS ksim­mons@ches­pub.com

The city of Ne­wark has cho­sen a Mary­land engi­neer­ing firm to spear­head the devel­op­ment of a pro­posed stormwa­ter pond on the Univer­sity of Delaware’s Rod­ney dor­mi­tory site.

Coun­cil re­cently agreed to hire John­son, Mir­mi­ran, and Thomp­son (JMT) to do the work, which will fo­cus on in­te­grat­ing a stormwa­ter man­age­ment pond along with park ameni­ties and recre­ational fa­cil­i­ties. In ad­di­tion to de­sign, en­vi­ron­men­tal per­mit­ting and project man­age­ment tasks, JMT will con­duct a com­bi­na­tion of pub­lic work­shops and

out­reach through­out the devel­op­ment process.

Head­quar­tered in Mary­land, JMT has been in busi­ness for 46 years and has of­fices in 35 cities across the coun­try.

City of­fi­cials have been eye­ing Rod­ney for use as a stormwa­ter pond since 2015, when UD an­nounced it would shut down the dorm. Sev­eral large stormwa­ter pipes meet un­der Rod­ney, and build­ing a stormwa­ter pond there would help re­lieve flood­ing on ei­ther side of the western area drainage ditch that runs from South Main Street to the Christina River south of Sil­ver­brook. When the ditch over­flows, it floods the Old Ne­wark neigh­bor­hood, in­clud­ing Ap­ple Road, Bev­erly Road and Dal­las Av­enue.

Pos­si­ble fea­tures of the stormwa­ter pond in­clude a walk­ing/jog­ging trail, out­door class­room and am­phithe­ater and an in­for­ma­tional kiosk about stormwa­ter man­age­ment and his­tory of the area.

Deputy Pub­lic Works Direc­tor Tim Fi­lasky said the city is re­quired to in­clude an ed­u­ca­tional as­pect, but of­fi­cials haven’t de­cided yet what that will be.

“Hav­ing some sort of ameni­ties will be im­por­tant,” he said. “You don’t just want to dig a hole.”

In March, the city put down a $50,000 de­posit on the 7.24-acre Hill­side Road prop­erty and now has four years to make a fi­nal de­ci­sion whether to go through with the pur­chase and can back out at any time. If the sale pro­ceeds, the city can deduct up to $700,000 of the de­mo­li­tion and en­vi­ron­men­tal re­me­di­a­tion costs from the $2.1 mil­lion pur­chase price. In spring 2018, the city is ex­pected to hold a ref­er­en­dum, seek­ing the pub­lic’s ap­proval to take on debt to fund the to­tal cost of stormwa­ter project, which is es­ti­mated to be be­tween $5.5 and $6 mil­lion, de­pend­ing on es­ti­mated con­struc- tion costs.

Pub­lic Works Direc­tor Tom Cole­man said it was im­por­tant for the city to hire a spe­cial­ized engi­neer­ing firm part­nered with an en­vi­ron­men­tal con­sul­tant to lead city of­fi­cials through the process of re­de­vel­op­ing a brown­field site, which he said the city doesn’t do very often.

“We don’t have the staff on hand to ab­sorb the work­load of a project like this and meet dead­lines,” Cole­man said.

The city an­tic­i­pates uti­liz­ing State Re­volv­ing Loan Funds for the pur­chase and devel­op­ment of this project and has a dead­line to have a bind­ing let­ter of com­mit­ment for the loan be­fore the end of the year in or­der to lock in fa­vor­able in­ter­est rates. The loan will pay for every­thing stormwa­ter re­lated – dorm de­mo­li­tion and pond con­struc­tion – but can­not be used to fund any park-like ameni­ties or recre­ation fa­cil­i­ties.

Three firms – Whit­man Re­quardt and As­so­ciates (WRA), AE­COM and JMT – sub­mit­ted project pro­pos­als that were re­viewed by an eval­u­a­tion com­mit­tee con­sist­ing of Cole­man, Com­mu­nity Af­fairs Of­fi­cer Me­gan McNer­ney and Deputy City Man­ager An­drew Haines. The firms re­cently gave oral pre­sen­ta­tions on their ap­proach to com­plet­ing the project and were ranked based on cre­ativ­ity, pub­lic out­reach and abil­ity to de­liver, re­spon­sive­ness of pro­posal for scope of work and ex­pe­ri­ence with city and ref­er­ences.

Ac­cord­ing to Cole­man, JMT ranked the high­est based on its high-qual­ity pre­sen­ta­tion ma­te­ri­als and ex­ist­ing re­la­tion­ship with the city.

“The same grants we would be go­ing af­ter for this project they’ve al­ready got­ten us,” he said.

Over the last four years, the com­pany has helped Ne­wark with its GIS data­base, var­i­ous stormwa­ter man­age­ment and wa­ter qual­ity projects and the “road diet” that turned part of Elk­ton Road into South Main Street. Cole­man said JMT has al­ready com­pleted the engi­neer­ing for that sec­tion of the city and can build off of it to do the rest of the Rod­ney stormwa­ter project.

“They’ve al­ready in­spected those pipes,” he said.

Cole­man said JMT’s part­ner­ship with BrightField, a Wilm­ing­ton-based en­vi­ron­men­tal con­sult­ing and re­me­di­a­tion firm that spe­cial­izes in re­de­vel­op­ing brown­field sites, also played a fac­tor, as did the com­pany’s plan for pub­lic out­reach. He said pub­lic out­reach and aware­ness for this project are par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant be­cause res­i­dents will be vot­ing whether or not to let the city pur­chase the site and build the pond.

“We think that when we de­velop ideas with the pub­lic, they tend to have more buy in and it turns out be­ing bet­ter,” Cole­man said.

Chris Brendza, JMT project man­ager, ex­plained that JMT will host three meet­ings over the sum­mer: first to ask res­i­dents what they’d like to see, sec­ond to present con­cepts for the pond and a third to de­cide on a fi­nal de­sign and ham­mer out any last de­tails. He said com­pany of­fi­cials will also set up booths at com­mu­nity events like New Night to in­form the pub­lic about the project.

“This is a project we are all very ex­cited to work on,” he said, adding that sev­eral JMT em­ploy­ees are UD alumni and have con­nec­tions to the Rod­ney dorm. “To do some­thing that, if it goes through, 30 to 40 years from now you can drive by and it’ll still be there.”

Over the next sev­eral months, Brendza said JMT and BrightField will con­duct a more in-depth en­vi­ron­men­tal study of the site and pre­pare gen­eral de­mo­li­tion and con­struc­tion plans and cost es­ti­mates. He in­sisted the de­mo­li­tion will not oc­cur un­til af­ter the ref­er­en­dum passes and it will be safe for the sur­round­ing res­i­den­tial neigh­bor­hoods, with crews tak­ing care of all haz­ardous ma­te­ri­als, dust and as­bestos con­trol.

How­ever, ac­cord­ing to Brendza, the most dif­fi­cult part of the project won’t be tear­ing down the shut­tered dorm, but get­ting the pub­lic to agree on a de­sign for the pond.

“We haven’t had that first pub­lic out­reach meet­ing yet,” he said.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF JMT

A con­cep­tual draw­ing of the stormwa­ter pond planned for the Univer­sity of Delaware’s Rod­ney dorm site fea­tur­ing a shal­low wa­ter wet­land, walk­ing trails, a nat­u­ral play­ground and ed­u­ca­tion sta­tion.

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