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And so it begins
Massive water line replacement project to start this month
new deh water line project update secondary pic web
These new fire hydrants are part of the water line improvement effort soon to be underway. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

Beginning as early Sept. 18, the City of Great Bend will embark on an extensive water line replacement project in the heart of the city that will probably take a year and a half to complete. 

Included are 18 water lines totalling 35,000 linear feet. Most of the work will be in the downtown area, including 10th Street between Washington and Main, and Main Street between 10th and 19th streets.

“We’re excited to get started,” said Public Works Director Charlie Suchy. “It’s been a long time coming.”

The issue dates to 2016 when the City Council approved a $6 million bond issue for water system upgrades with eyes on replacing many of the city’s crumbling 60-year-old cast iron water pipes. In June, the City Council accepted the low bid of APAC-Kansas Inc. Shears Division of Hutchinson for $3,787,417.

Starting this week, a staging area has been established in the city-owned parking lot at 12th and Baker where stacks of blue poly-vinyl chloride pipe and gleaming new red fire hydrants stand at the ready. A forklift operator Tuesday afternoon unloaded pallets of the pipe from flat-bed semi trailers.

“They want to keep the parts they need close to where they are working,” Suchy said. Additional parts may be stored at the city’s compost site if needed.

However, if not all the parts APAC needs arrive as planned, the start may be delayed a week.

Of the $6 million bond issue, $1 million was set aside for engineering services, design and new water meter installations that can be handled by city employees. This left $5 million for the water line replacements, making the bid from APEC well under the cap. The low bid means there will be money available for surprises and unexpected problems that may arise. 

There will be times when streets may be closed and water may be turned off in the impacted areas. But, “I think we can work through it,” Suchy said.

The 10th to Washington stretch is first on the list, Suchy said, adding this could take a couple of months. But, 10th will remain open with traffic rerouted around the work site at the south edge of the street.

Next will come 10th to 19th.

The contractor will use directional drilling which allows the crew to bore under the street and will there will be little damaging the street surfaces except patches where they have dig to start the boring. APEC will drill holes at each end of each block to insert the drilling equipment.

“This is a complete overhaul of the system,” said Josh Golka, an engineer for the city’s on-call engineering firm Professional Engineering Consultants of Wichita, when the council approved the project. Referencing a master water study PEC did for the city 15 years ago, this work could be the first phase of a more comprehensive effort. But, that is a topic for another time.

This is a safety issue, city officials said. The decades-old six-inch pipes have corroded so much that at some points the opening has been reduced to the size of a ball-point pen.

Not only will this improve water flow, it will also improve the water pressure for area fire hydrants.

The council also authorized Allison to sign the engineering services agreement with PEC for inspection services for the project. The 26-week agreement will cost no  more than $156,000. 

Under the agreement, PEC would provide inspections and coordinate the needs of businesses and residents with APEC when shutting off water.

After the 26 weeks, the city can renew the contract or take over the work itself.

Funding for inspections was included in the original bond issue. 

The key will be communication, officials said. Updates on the progress will be forthcoming.