Short-term damage for long-term gain

NAPPANEE — Residents have wondered about the current torn-up state of the south side of US 6 near downtown. Many have also been upset about the disappearance of trees which have been apparent casualties of the work.
The ongoing project is a necessary one. With pipes dating back a century, the water main located there had to be replaced. Crews from Beer and Slabaugh Inc. have been working on it since mid-November, and should be done by April 1.
Because of where the new water main had to be installed, digging right next to the trees was required. Due to the damage done to the critical foundation of the trees, the city forester recommended that they be removed.
“We were cutting into the root structure and weakening them to a point where it wasn’t acceptable to leave them up,” Nappanee Water Department Superintendent Gale Gerber said. “There were 18 trees altogether, and about a half-dozen of those were hollow. A lot of them were broken out up in the tops to a point where the forester said it would be better to take them down now and get new trees up there for the future.”
When construction is completed, the trees will be replaced.
“The water utility and the tree board will be planting at the end of the project,” Gerber said.
The water main project, which stretches 14 blocks, is a large and long-discussed undertaking.
“We’ve talked about doing this for a number of years,” Gerber said. “We were able to get some funding from the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT), and this is replacing some of the worst water main that we have in the city. The original piping was probably put in around 1890 to the early 1900s, maybe 1910. Plus it was very undersized. It was only 4 inches and we’re putting in 12-inch water main in to increase flow for fire hydrants.”
Replacing the water main and a half-dozen fire hydrants is just a portion of a much bigger project. Once the initial work is done, INDOT will come in to put new curbing down in the affected area, from Elm St. to Miriam St. When that is done, a new sidewalk will be laid. Finally, Market Street, from Mancino’s restaurant to Taco Bell, will be repaved. The entire project is scheduled to be completed by next fall.
Gerber and the water department have been active. In 2009, it received $1.9 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for wastewater improvements. This year, there was an upgrade to the controls at the water treatment plant, switching to a new computer system.
The town also received a $158,000 stimulus grant to upgrade heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems at City Hall, Nappanee Center and the water park garage.
“The previous equipment was at best 50 or 60 percent efficient,” Gerber said. “We got that replaced with very little cost out of pocket, which was nice. We try very hard to get that grant money. We’re always looking.”