Underground Progress

Friday, July 13, 2012
Crews from Beck Excavating work on a storm sewer project on Third Avenue West. Plans call for the job, which zig zags through West Seventh Street on Fourth Avenue West, to be finished by the end of the current construction season. (Photo by Gabe Licht)

A five-block stretch in west Spencer is receiving a storm sewer upgrade, which will benefit numerous city blocks.

Crews from Beck Excavating have begun work to replace the storm sewer lines beneath Third Avenue West on June 29. The goal is to zig zag through West Seventh Street, via Fifth Avenue West and West Fourth Street, before the end of the current construction season.

"It's part of an ongoing storm sewer separation project through Spencer; it's basically the second phase of that," Public Works Director Mark White said.

The nearly $1.66 million construction project is funded in part by a $600,000 Community Development Block Grant.

White explained how CDBG funding works.

"Because it's CDBG, qualified by a Low to Moderate Income study, residents are not assessed for the project," he said.

Additionally, storm sewer cash pays $485,000, $373,000 is coming from street reserve cash, sanitary sewer cash covers $175,000 of the cost and Spencer Municipal Utilities' portion of $200,000 consists of water mains throughout the project.

Spencer Finance Director Brian Weuve clarified that -- with engineering, legal, grant administration and other costs -- the total is slightly more than $1.8 million.

The project is part of the 2012 Capital Improvement Plan, though it may be continued until 2013.

While the bulk of the project is a trunk line, measuring six feet in diameter at the start and tapering as it goes, a smaller, lateral line accompanies it on Third Avenue West from Fifth Street on.

"Lateral lines are local sewers; they only drain the area they're in," City Engineer Jim Thiesse said. "The trunk line serves a much larger area than where it is. That'll get extended north on Fourth Avenue West and will serve all the way to West 18th Street."

Unfortunately for construction crews, the ground is flat, meaning they have to start deeper with the larger pipe and move shallower as they go.

"The first block is always the toughest," Thiesse said. "The start is the deepest part of the job and the wettest part of the job. You also have water that follows the old rock bedding from the south, so you have water coming from both directions. The trick is to get the water controlled. There's a learning curve and ground conditions change within the block from time to time."

While crews are off to a slow start, Thiesse believes they will soon be able to pick up the pace.

"They're making adjustments in their methods and equipment and I think we'll see more production," he said.

In other construction news:

* The 2011 West Ninth Street has been completed.

* The sewer project for the Green Industrial Center in west Spencer is about two-thirds done.

* Bids for seal coating about 2.5 miles of Spencer roads have also been accepted and Spencer City Council is expected to award the project to the lowest bidder during their Monday evening meeting.

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