End of $1.7M sewer project pleases residents in Gary
By Michael Gonzalez Post-Tribune correspondent May 16, 2014 11:30PM
Gary resident John Bianchi said a newly installed storm sewer on 25th Avenue, which fronts his property, already has improved the quality of the area. Federal and city officials Friday officially reopened the 1,500-foot stretch of 25th Avenue. | Michael Gonzalez~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 18, 2014 6:04AM
GARY -- As John Bianchi looked past his lawn and onto 25th Avenue in the Black Oak section of the city, the retired steel worker smiled and nodded slightly.
“The road’s very good,” he said, moments after local and national officials spoke of installing a storm water system there for the first time. “They took a little longer than expected, but I’m pleased.
“We pay our taxes like everyone else.”
U.S Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville, Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials and others celebrated the official reopening of 1,500 feet of 25th Avenue, from Burr Street west to Calhoun, now with a way to drain off rain and snow melt that would often pile up in the area.
It was the second of an expected three-phase project to install storm sewers along 25th Avenue. It remains unclear if and when the city will land more federal projects to extend the work eastward, as no additional funding is pending in Congress now, Visclosky said.
He lauded the project, along with the other officials.
“This is a wise investment of our tax dollars of the citizens of Gary as well as the federal government, because homes and businesses will not be flooded, homes and businesses will be worth more money, and we will encourage more economic activity here,” Visclosky said.
The roughly $1.7 million project was 75 percent federally funded, with the Gary Sanitary District matching 25 percent of the cost, or about $473,000 of the cost to install a 30-inch storm sewer, storm water inlets, catch basins and new road in the area.
Gary-based Industrial and Environmental Services, or IES, began the work last summer, and the project was mostly completed -- and the stretch of road reopened -- by Dec. 4.
Even with the portion of road closed for much of last year, neither the U.S. Army Corps nor the contractors received complaints, likely because the end result was so important, said Imad Samara, the U.S. Army Corps’ project manager.
“We were relying on those businesses in the area knowing at the end of the process they were going to have a lot better situation than they have now,” he said, standing beneath a tent and out of a steady drizzle. “And, you can see. you don’t have really standing water anywhere that you can see.”
Freeman-Wilson said the Black Oak area has been the focus of renewed attention in City Hall.
“Every time I come out into Black Oak or, very often when I’m not here, I get emails because many members of the community feel like we have forgotten them,” she said. “The fact this project has been done in the community, the fact we’ve done other projects is evidence Black Oak is a very valuable part of our community”
Bianchi called the new storm sewer a good start, but he also called for more attention to the area.
“What I’d like to see (City Hall) do now is started working on these abandoned buildings and lots,” he said. “People would move back in around here.”