Aging infrastructure, utility lines, complicate town hall project

Posted 11/29/19

PITTSBORO — Pittsboro’s new $18 million town hall project, still in its design stage, is encountering infrastructure concerns.

Representatives from Hobbs Architects, which is managing the …

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Aging infrastructure, utility lines, complicate town hall project

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PITTSBORO — Pittsboro’s new $18 million town hall project, still in its design stage, is encountering infrastructure concerns.

Representatives from Hobbs Architects, which is managing the project, noted to the town board last week that it needed guidance from the town in order to deal with a variety of systems — sewer, water, stormwater, electric and communication lines.

The project is located at the site of the former Piggly Wiggly on Salisbury Street in Pittsboro. The old building was demolished last year to allow for temporary downtown parking while the project is in development.

All of the systems lie within the same areas of each other and are often “stacked” with utility beds crossing pipes. Different infrastructure systems installed and upgraded at different times over Pittsboro’s history means some records may not be available.


There is currently no stormwater system on that portion of Salisbury Street. Runoff essentially drains onto the roadway down the street about a block until it eventually hits a storm drain.

The town chose to include stormwater treatment in the town hall project. The board had the choice between two options — a storm filter system or a sand filtration system.

The storm filter system has higher costs up front, but is less maintenance intensive, according to Hobbs Architects. The sand filter system, though less cost up front, requires maintenance at least every three years, meaning filtering sand needs to be periodically removed and replaced. Both systems require similar connections to be made to the stormwater system down the street.

The original budget approved by the town included the storm filter system, but both options were provided. The board ultimately decided to stay with its original choice.


The town will need to install a water pump in the new town hall to ensure there is ample pressure to push water to all floors of the building. This will require connecting and improving the water lines around the building to support it. The town could choose to simply install new piping in the street in front of it, extend the water line improvements a block away where stormwater improvements already require opening up of the road, or improve lines around the entire block which would improve the water system in a much larger area in terms of impact.


The sewer lines that run along Salisbury Street are made of terracotta, which was used up until the early 1900’s for sewer lines. Those lines, according to Hobbs, are in satisfactory shape considering the material used. However, given the age of the infrastructure, the question for the board was whether to invest in improvements to the existing sewer lines.


Both Duke Energy and Century Link have infrastructure installed along and around the proposed town hall site. Hobbs Architects have been coordinating with both companies to discuss best options for utility placement during and after construction. While the companies agreed to an option to move some overhead wires and poles, the real concern for the design process is locating underground wires, specifically those of Century Link.

Salisbury Street houses a main line for Century Link which has grown over the years. Initial surveys indicate that at one feeder location five lines intersect and that the Century Link duct work intertwines piping. Hobbs Architects has been unable to get current mapping or verification of the location noting receipt of the information from the company has been “challenging.” The manholes that connect to the ducts are owned by the company and are not accessible without permission.

As a result of the challenge, the town board voted unanimously to conduct sub-surface utility engineering, a process where probes are dug into points along the easement to ascertain where all the utilities are located. That contract is anticipated to cost no more than $23,000.

“So a communications company, a regulated utility, is reluctant to share the locations of lines underground which results in us having to pay $23,000?” Commissioner John Bonitz asked during the discussion of the proposal.

Hobbs Architects noted that the installation of a storm system didn’t allow for any other options than to pay to get an accurate mapping of the utility lines. Since all commissioners agreed the stormwater system is essential, the board voted unanimously to approve the utility mapping project.

Reporter Casey Mann can be reached at


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