GREENBELT – After years of discussion, the Greenbelt Lake Dam Repair Project has cleared its last financial hurdle and will begin in a few weeks.
In the final step of what has been a lengthy process, the Greenbelt City Council voted Aug. 12 to adopt an ordinance authorizing the issuance and sale of a Maryland Water Quality Bond, Series 2019, of up to $2.5 million to repair the dam, located at Buddy Attick Park.
“This is an important milestone for the city as we move ahead to make these significant repairs to the dam,” Mayor Emmett Jordan said.
David Moran, the city’s assistant manager, said the project could begin as early as Labor Day and should take about 142 business days to complete.
Jordan expressed some concern that, although the project has been discussed for some time, residents may be surprised to see it finally begin.
“I’m concerned that this is going to be a shock to some of our residents,” he said. “It’s actually coming up pretty fast.”
Greenbelt residents first voted to approve up to $2.5 million to repair the dam – considered a “high-hazard dam” by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) – in November 2017. The state issued a consent order to the city in 2010 to repair the dam after it’s designation by the MDE.
The repair of the dam, which is more than 80 years old and has never had major repair work done, will include chimney filter and toe drain installation, embankment raising, replacement of the pedestrian bridge and spillway repair.
In June, the council voted to award the $1.7 million project to Pennsylvania-based KC Construction.
As part of the repair process, the lake will need to be lowered for about 60 days to provide access for workers to repair the dam. Moran said the lake could look “fairly unpleasant” when lowered as it pulls up the mud and trash that has settled and will not look or smell as nice during this phase of the project.
“This is an important project so we’re going to ask for people’s patience, we’re going to ask for them to bear with us while we do it, we’ll get it done as soon as we can and we’ll emerge with, hopefully, a dam that’s repaired and doesn’t leak anymore,” he said.
Jordan joked about what they may find when the lake is lowered.
“Hopefully when they lower the lake, they won’t find any former council members down there,” he said.
Moran said the park would remain open during the entire length of the project and people will notice construction activity around the dam. At some point, he said, the path leading to the dam will be closed to facilitate construction, but the city would provide more details about the process and when the lake will be lowered once the pre-construction schedule is finalized.
Some council members voiced concerns that the language of the city’s loan agreement included prepayment penalties, something they had been told earlier would not apply if they wished to pay sooner.
“Yes, we’re not going to pay it off in a year or two, but this should not be written,” said Councilwoman Silke Pope.
Because the city was taking advantage of a state program, Moran said the city did not have any flexibility with the terms.
“This is MDE, standard boilerplate, take it or leave it,” Moran said. “You don’t get to negotiate the terms.”
Jordan and Mayor Pro Tem Judith Davis suggested it may be better not to pay off the loan early with its interest rate at about two percent, which Moran said the city could not get without utilizing the state program.
Jeff Williams, the city’s treasurer, agreed, stating that the city would be better off not prepaying as the interest that will be charged is less than what the city is making on its investments.
“Right now, this is basically a free loan,” he said.