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24th Street won't be torn up

By DARRELL SMITH - dsmith@newsexaminer.com

Residents along 24th Street won’t have to put up with their street being torn up while a new sewage line is installed. That part of a massive reconstruction project has been eliminated.

The city of Connersville had planned a two-year construction project for the 24th Street/Upper Grand project. After discussions with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, the 24th Street part of the project has been eliminated, Mike Bottomley, Connersville Utilities director, said.

The project called for a new storm sewer line to be installed under West 24th Street from Grand Avenue to the Whitewater River and then reconstructing Grand Avenue to West 30th Street. That would be similar to the reconstruction between 20th and 24th streets a few years ago.

With the change, the city’s engineering firm, Strand Associates, is estimating the city will save $1 million and cut one year off of the project, he said.

The change is a result of a planning grant for the entire utilities operation, Bottomley said.

“Why are we doing all these little (sewer separation) projects? Wouldn’t it be just as easy to send everything to the sewer plant and treat it there?” he asked. “We are changing the long-term control plan.”

The idea behind the small sewer separation projects is to separate storm water from wastewater and send the stormwater to the river untreated. Only wastewater would be sent to the treatment plant.

To alleviate overflows, a large holding pond will be constructed to hold the excess water during rainy periods and treat it gradually, he explained.

The storm water being separated out of the wastewater goes to the river untreated but there are street oils and other nasty things in that water, Brad Colter, utilities superintendent, said.

“We’re excited because we can treat it,” he said. 

Designers made the plant large for the expected growth of the city but when industry left, the plant had unneeded capacity available.

“Having a lot of excess capacity at the treatment plant gives us a lot of options other cities don’t have,” he said.

A large 72-inch sewer main under the old Whitewater Canal along Western Avenue serves as a sort of storage tank. During recent heavy rains, the treatment plant did not experience an overflow, Colter said.

The Upper Grand Project will be done in four pieces so one lane of traffic will remain open. The road will be closed on one side at a time from 24th to 27th street. Construction will move to one side of the street from 27th to 30th streets and then switch to the other side of the street.

The Upper Grand Project has been under consideration and design since mid-2104.

Every five years, the state does a financial capability study with the utilities, and using a complicated formula, they figure out how much money the city can afford to spend, he said. 

Even though there are projects in all three divisions in the future that will cost a lot of money, the department has worked to save funds for them, Colter said. The department will have funds for a good down payment on the projects to be able to do the projects and hopefully not have to raise the rates by a drastic amount.