Valpo completes some sewer projects, adds more
By James D. Wolf jr. Post-Tribune correspondent September 30, 2012 6:00PM
Updated: November 2, 2012 6:09AM
VALPARAISO — It’s been a good summer for the city’s sewers and storm drainage system as 14 separate projects saw completion — and under the overall budget by 37 percent.
Many of the projects were part of Operation: Thunderstruck, the revised sewer improvements list that came out of the storms and flooding that happened in fall 2008.
Next year should see the start of the final two projects of Operation: Thunderstruck. Those are the replacement of a collapsing culvert under the railroad tracks behind Franklin House, which will alleviate drainage problems along Campbell Street going north, and the brand new sewer and storm water drainage systems in the Chatauqua neighborhood, which could last up to three years.
That depends on costs, but getting it done in less than three years looks good because construction costs are low and bidding is competitive for municipal projects, according to City Chief Engineer Tim Burkman and Chief Deputy Engineer Adam McAlpine.
“Not everybody’s putting out this type of work. We hear that from contractors,” Burkman said.
The city had budgeted more than $3.12 million but the final amount was less than $2.6 million.
The city also lowered the costs by getting state and federal grants and doing project design in-house, McAlpine said. Usually city engineers manage and plan projects, but by doing the design for some in-house, Valparaiso saved an estimated 53 percent on consultant fees.
With $645,514 in state and federal grants, the city paid just over $1.9 million.
This wasn’t a matter of just budgeting high, McAlpine said. The total high bids for projects came in above what the city’s engineering department had estimated by 10 percent, so estimates were close to the middle of bids received.
“We’re in a time where it’s very competitive,” McAlpine said.
Completed projects include separating the storm and waste sewers on Evans Avenue, finishing the Wall Street detention basin to hold more water and beginning the Thorgren detention basin naturalization — making it hold more water for longer.
Thorgren is one of three projects that are planned to end this year. The others are the Sager Run culvert on Horseprairie Avenue near Zao Island — where a fire truck fell into where the road over the stream collapsed during the 2008 storm — and bypass work in Hawthorne subdivision that reroutes storm water around the homes.
Burkman said that although many of this year’s projects were from Operation: Thunderstruck, which came out of the 2008 storm, the city has had a list of sewer system repairs since the 1990s and already was updating that list.
“The storm highlighted weak points,” he said.
That also led to the $8 million bond issue, which put $6 million toward the projects and refinanced an older bond.
Valparaiso got a lot of projects done, but it’s been through a combination of the bond and pay-as-you-go, Burkman said.
That and the scope of work are other reasons why the Chatauqua Park project could take up to three years.
The city has to buy land to build detention ponds, put in storm sewers and separate existing storm lines from the sanitary sewer lines that carry waste from homes.