City to begin Pleasant Acres infrastructure project in October


A sign marks the entrance to Pleasant Acres (Photo by Ryan Phillips, SDN)

By: 
RYAN PHILLIPS
SDN EDITOR

The city of Starkville is about to begin the first in a line of projects geared toward replacing the city’s aging water and sewer infrastructure, and the residents of Pleasant Acres were the first to hear the city’s most recent game plan.

On Tuesday night, roughly 50 people attended a community meeting to hear about the project at the Starkville Church of God, located across the street from their neighborhood.

“It’s going to be the first neighborhood we really go in at look at a complete upgrade of the sewer and water infrastructure,” said Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker. “That should make ya’ll’s lives a little bit easier and the folks are going to put Pleasant Acres in a good stance in terms of utilities.”

Starkville Utilities General Manager Terry Kemp said roughly 100 homes will be impacted by project, and he was pleased to see the turnout on Tuesday night.

“We had a great representation, and we are going to fine tune things over the next 30 or 45 days, but I think about 50 percent of the residents were represented tonight,” Kemp said.

TALKING POINTS

Starkville Utilities Assistant Manager Jacob Forrester fielded the lion’s share of questions from Pleasant Acres residents at the meeting, and provided the high points of the project before it moves forward.

Forrester told residents the projected start date to replace the neighborhood’s water and sewer infrastructure is slated for Oct. 1 through Oct. 15, with a projected completion date of Jan. 30, 2019.

The big number he pointed out to underscore the need for the work was 1954 - the year the original sewer line was designed.

“It has lived its useful life … a lot of this line was 4 and 6 inches, and you’re going to see here in a minute we’re going to increase the capacity … to 8-inch lines, 10- inch lines and 12-inch lines, so that will certainly help in terms of the flow.”

Forrester then said the plan calls for pushing all of the new sewer and water lines closer to the road, with new sewer lines positioned next to the edge of the pavement and water lines to be placed about five to 10 feet off of that.

Per industry standard, Forrester said the old pipes will be left in the ground.

“There’s some very beautiful trees that we don’t want to get to the tree beds and harm them if at all possible, and that’s the goal and that’s why we’re going to push that to the edge of the pavement,” Forrester said.

But he conceded that the work will ultimately impact every resident of the neighborhood at some point.

“The goal is going to be to keep it as minimally invasive as possible,” Forrester said. “The nature of the work will be somewhat disruptive, though. I don’t want to give you any false pretenses on that.”

As a construction goal though, the city will look to lay all of the sewer and water mains and then come back and “quickly and efficiently” connect residents to the new main.

Forrester then said if everything is done correctly, they will be able to connect residents within a couple of hours.

“You won’t be without service for three or four months,” Forrester said.

Forrester then said work would likely begin with joint-to-joint construction of 20-foot pipe lengths on the west side of the neighborhood, but the starting point would be contingent on the contractor.

The city expects to begin taking bids on the contractor in the first week of September, with the estimated price tag for the overall project coming in at $600,000.

Resident questions centered on manholes, prior notification of water service interruptions and the impact on the aesthetics of the historic neighborhood, among other concerns.

Forrester said manholes will be low profile and go along with existing contours of the street and residents will be notified of any interruption to their water service.

Both Forrester and Kemp said there would be ongoing communication throughout the project and encouraged residents to sign up by emailing pleasantacres@starkvilleutilities.com to receive updates every two weeks once the project begins.

As for things like replacing resident’s grass once it is torn up by utility work, the contract will have it covered.

“What the contract requires, we’re going to be finishing this in the winter, they’ll be required to put out rye and get it established and then it’ll be annual where it will die off in the summer, then we will come back and plug with St. Augustine, that’s what you probably have. Then we’ll fertilize it.”

One resident asked if the contract will be long enough for the contractor to come back to put out the St. Augustine, which Forrester said is a requirement.

Following the meeting, several residents expressed their support for a project that is viewed as a long time coming.

“This has been a very informative meeting and we appreciate all they are doing for us,” said Carole Krouse. “We’re just thankful that they are doing this for us.”

Howard Road resident Casey Johnson echoed the sentiment and said there is no way a project of this scale will not provide some inconvenience during the process.

“There’s no way around that but hopefully it’s all worth it in the end and we will end up with better utility service and hopefully it’s not too many inconveniences along the way,” Johnson said.

Johnson said he has a sewer line on one side of his property and the water on the other, with both out by the street.

“We are in pretty good shape,” he said. “But some of these folks, that are going to get it moved from back to the front, they are going to be in more trouble than we are. We’ve got a couple of big pine trees that I hope don’t succumb to it, but I trust these guys.”

THE BIGGER PICTURE

The Pleasant Acres project is the first of three neighborhoods initially selected by the city to address aging and failing water and sewer infrastructure.

Work on Pleasant Acres will begin first, which will be followed by Green Oaks.

The Green Oaks project, which is about four times larger than Pleasant Acres, will likely be done in four phases and come at a cost of $2.4 million. Rolling Hills would follow the completion of Green Oaks improvements and cost the city approximately $900,000.

To offset the high cost of an infrastructure overhaul, the Starkville Board of Aldermen voted 6-1 in July to increase water and sewer rates to fund the improvements.

The increases will become effective Sept. 1, and includes a 99-cent increase to the city’s variable water rate, bringing it to $3.25, which would impact every additional 1,000 gallons used after the base amount.

The base rate for water services remains at $4, while sewer has increased by 50 cents to $4.

The Starkville Daily News previously reported funds will also be put toward sewage lagoon management at the city's wastewater treatment facility.

Following Tuesday’s meeting, Mayor Lynn Spruill expressed her gratitude to the Board of Aldermen for going through with a decision to adjust the water and sewer rates.

“I think (the residents) know it needs to be done, and we know it needs to be done,” Spruill said. “I’m very proud of the board, I’ve said this many times they saw that future because it’s an important piece of how we can be the best we can be.”

Walker praised the engagement of the Pleasant Acres residents and stressed the importance of opening up the lines of communication, not just for this project, but all city infrastructure needs.

“I believe this was a good first step to opening up those lines of communication to try to make this project go as smoothly as possible,” Walker said. “We’re going to be there and make sure it’s done right and as efficiently and effectively as possible, so they see as little impact on their daily lives as possible.”

The concerns, according to Walker, will come in the form of the project’s logistics.

“We’re going to make sure the disturbance is as minimized as possible, as few trees are affected as possible and that people’s lawns get put back in the same condition that it was, I think those will be the things that get people’s attention and I’ve been told by utilities and contractors that they are going to do everything possible we can to make sure that that happens.”

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