By CRISTIN REECE
Palestine’s Utilities Department is keeping it from hitting the fan with a series of sanitary sewer infrastructure upgrades, the third of which is currently in progress.
Contractors with McKinney & Moore Construction of Jacksonville are in the process of installing larger sewer lines on the east side of town, along Church Street and Crockett Road, as mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency more than 10 years ago.
“We got the mandate in 1999,” Utilities Director Robert Sedgwick said. “We were required to stop our sanitary sewer overflow. Bottlenecks in the existing system were forcing overflow up through the manholes. These projects are helping stop that since it’s eliminating those bottlenecks.”
Work on phase 1 of the project actually started in 2002. The reason the overall project has taken so long, Sedgwick said, is because, on top of lengthy waits on plans and designs of each leg of the project, the city has had to acquire easements all along each work site each time a new project is ready to start.
“It’s taken as much as two years to get everyone to agree in some cases,” Sedgwick said. “Sometimes easements aren’t recorded properly so we have to track those down and some instances property owners have even taken the issue all the way to court. That all works to slow things down considerably.”
Funding, too, played a part in slowing the project down.
“We were fortunate enough to qualify for low interest loans through the Texas Water Development Board’s Clean Water Fund one the first two phases,” Sedgwick said. “And there are a lot of hoops you have to jump through to be able to get those types of funds.
“Now there are many more restrictions on those funds and I don’t think we’re going to be able to go that route again,” he said. “We’ll have to go to the open market, which will help speed things up a bit.”
The first two phases of the project — which were installed along Howard Creek and included relocating some lines along U.S. Highway 79 — are already complete and cost a total $3.5 million.
The current phase of the work came with a price tag of just over $800,000, Sedgwick said, and should be completed by the end of the year.
In total, the city will upsize 5,475 linear feet of sewer line and add 330 linear feet of steel aerial line across creeks; add 36 manholes; dry bore a total of 250 linear feet under several roads including Crockett Street; move one picnic table and barbecue pit at Reagan Park; and plan to repair or replace 311 linear feet of street, 998 of driveway entries and 398 feet of sidewalks that will have to be removed in the course of the project.
The ultimate goal is to eliminate all restrictions in the city’s sewer infrastructure. The project’s next phases include work along Indian Creek to Wells Creek, a rehab of the lift-station there and then upsizing from Bassett Creek to the wastewater treatment plant.
“We know it’s very inconvenient to residents as we’re doing these projects — we’ve gotten a few complaints already,” Sedgwick said. “Bear with us — we’re trying to be as accommodating and responsive as we can in addressing these issues and we appreciate everyone’s patience.”
Sedgwick said anyone experiencing problems may call him at his office, 903-731-8494.