Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

Downtown sewer project postponed to next spring

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The long-discussed, often-postponed replacement of a sanitary sewer main beneath South Calumet Road is going to be discussed a lot more in the coming months, after it was postponed yet again by the Utility Service Board at its meeting Monday night.

Businesses in the Chesterton Downtown can accordingly breathe a sigh of relief this summer but should plan on hyperventilating all over again late next winter, as the new drop-dead deadline to start the project is now early spring 2011.

The hitch this time is the difficulty in coordinating the water- and gas-main projects which Indiana-American Water Company (IAWC) and the Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO) want to pursue during the excavation of South Calumet Road.

“What was originally one project,” as Member John Schnadenberg explained—the separation of storm and sanitary sewers and the replacement of a sanitary line—has basically “become three projects,” as IWAC wants to upgrade a six-inch water main installed some 80 years ago with a 12-inch main and NIPSCO wants to re-locate a gas main of roughly the same age.

“It only makes sense to do the three projects together,” Schnadenberg said.

But NIPSCO is nowhere near finalizing its plans—it could opt to move the gas main, currently on the west side of the road, to the east side; or, the preferred choice, it could move the main behind the businesses on South Calumet Road, to Lois Lane—and even if the company were able to get its design done and the specs bid in time for the Chesterton Utility to begin its project by June 7, the absolute earliest the whole thing could be substantially completed is Aug. 9, Town Engineer Mark O’Dell calculated. And that’s only if NIPSCO opts to move the gas main to Lois Lane. If NIPSCO opts instead just to move it across the road, then Sept. 13 would be the earliest completion date.

“So we’re looking at shutting the street down for the summer,” President Larry Brandt nutshelled it.

“Yeah,” O’Dell replied. “Everything we were trying to avoid.”

“We always said we wanted to get this done early in the summer,” Schnadenberg added. “We’ve got other projects to do. Let’s work with NIPSCO, get this bid out in November or December, and we can start digging April 1 next year. To close Calumet that long is not acceptable to me.”

Brandt, on the other hand, argued for sticking to the schedule. “Or we could just go ahead,” he said. “Where has NIPSCO been? The business people are mentally ready. We should just go ahead. . . . We know where the lines are. Now we have to wait for (NIPSCO) to make a decision six months from now. We’ll never get it done.”

Yes, Schnadenberg pressed, but who knows what will happen if the weather turns bad for any period of time or if excavators unearth something unexpected. Then the project could go well into the fall.

And, Member Scot McCord noted for his part, if NIPSCO is unable to get its act together at all this year, then it will have to rip up the street all over again next year. “I’d just hate to see the Downtown torn up more than once.”

McCord also observed that the bidding process is starting to look increasingly complicated, with three different sets of specs for three different projects advertised by three different entities. It’s possible, he said, that a contractor could be the low bidder for the Chesterton Utility’s project but a high bidder on IAWC’s. Then what happens?

“Will we even be able to put these factors together?” Brandt asked.

“Given time,” Schnadenberg said. “But right now time is not on our side.”

In the end member voted 4-0 to postpone Phase I of the project—extending from the Norfolk Southern grade-crossing to West Indiana Ave.—but to pursue Phase II of the project this year: the separation of a storm drain beneath South Calumet Road between Morgan Ave. and Porter Ave.

Brandt did not vote against the motion but he didn’t vote in favor of it either.

Town of Porter

In other business, the Service Board agreed by consensus to authorize the Utility to investigate the feasibility of partnering with the Town of Porter to repair or replace an old sanitary sewer line beneath the parking lot of the State Park Little League field.

The line belongs to the Town of Porter.


Members voted 5-0 to authorize Superintendent Pat Geisendorfer to advertise for a new operator, who will succeed an operator expected to retire later this year.

Members also voted 5-0 to endorse to the Town Council a change in Personnel Policy under which the Utility’s wastewater operators would go to a 10-day on, four-day off schedule, which Geisendorfer said would permit the staffing of the plant on weekends.

Rate Study

By consensus the Service Board agreed to hold a special meeting at 5 p.m. Thursday, April 29, on the biennial rate study.

March in Review

In March, Chesterton used 51.82 percent of its 3,752,000 gallon per day (gpd) allotment at the waste treatment plant; Porter, 62.19 percent of its 767,000 gpd allotment; the Indian Boundary Conservancy District, 87.22 percent of its 81,000 gpd allotment; and the plant as a whole, 54.11 percent of its capacity.

There were no bypasses last month.

In March the Utility ran a surplus of $217,803 and in the year-to-date is running a surplus of $152,691.


McCord took a moment at the end of the meeting to express his condolences to the family of John Brickler, who died April 15.

Brickler was a former member of the Service Board.



Posted 4/20/2010




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