HARVARD – The city has taken the first step toward fixing 1,700 feet of sewer line prone to backups in recent years.
Officials agreed Tuesday to use about $115,000 in leftover capital improvement funds to replace the most problematic section of the line – a 330-foot stretch along Route 14 from South Park Avenue to Admiral Drive.
"We were having an issue where the sewer would back up and flow out of a manhole," City Administrator Dave Nelson said. "The sewer is old and tired and broken."
Nelson added that he didn't think the issue had flooded buildings attached to the line, since the line covers predominately commercial buildings without basements.
An engineer estimated that replacing the full length of the sewer line, from South Park Avenue to Airport Road, would cost about $389,000.
The engineer also included estimates for two other options originally considered viable by the water and sewer committee.
The first, building a new sewer at a higher elevation, would have saved money on future maintenance costs, the engineer found. But that carried an estimated cost of $409,000, and didn't allow the city to break up the project into sections as funds become available.
Installing a new sewer lining, rather than replacing the line altogether, would have saved the city considerable money, carrying an estimated total cost of about $132,000. But officials deemed that wasn't an option after video from within the sewer revealed that parts of the line were completely missing, Nelson said.
"We basically ended up making the decision that we have to dig a deep hole, 17 to 18 feet in spots," Nelson said.
The fact the line is so deep forces high labor costs, officials said.
"It's not something our guys could do," said Alderman Chuck Marzahl, who's the chairman of the water and sewer committee. "You're going to have to come in with big equipment."
Marzahl said the committee has been considering replacing the sewer line for about 10 years, but it only recently moved to the top of the committee's priorities. He said other portions of the project would be addressed in coming years based on available funds.
But the other portions are "not as big of a problem," Marzahl added.