Storm sewer improvements more than two months behind schedule

$3.2 million Colden Street Project start delayed while waiting on delivery of crucial parts; two of the four pieces have arrived

Two of the four 60,000- to 70,000-pound "vaults" for Polo's $3.2 million Colden Street Project arrived last week. One was installed beneath South Maple Avenue near the intersection with West Colden Street, and another sits waiting to be installed at the South Maple Avenue and West Buffalo Street intersection.

POLO — A $3.2 million storm sewer improvement project in Polo is more than two months behind schedule because of delayed delivery of crucial pipe parts.

The Colden Street Project encompasses about 10.5 blocks, which spans both the downtown business district and residential neighborhoods. It is meant to help alleviate water buildup on Illinois Route 26 — named Division Avenue in Polo city limits — during torrential rain events.

City officials and the project’s main project contractor — Martin & Co., of Oregon — were able to dive into the project when two of the four pipe “vaults” needed arrived last week, Public Works Director Kendall Kyker said. Work couldn’t begin until the vaults were delivered, he said.

“We can’t lay the [smaller] pipe in the ground and then hope we get the 70,000-pound pipe in the ground and hope it goes in the right place,” Kyker said.

Each vault weighs between 60,000 and 70,000 pounds, and will connect different sized pipelines at turning points such as intersections, he explained. They’re still waiting for the other two, which they expect to be delivered in the next two weeks, Kyker said.

As of Tuesday, one of the vaults had been installed beneath South Maple Avenue near the intersection with West Colden Street, which is where the storm sewer system will exit city streets, Kyker said. The second vault the city received will go in at the intersection of South Maple Avenue and West Buffalo Street.

“Right now, we can work and go all the way to Congress [Avenue],” he said. “Then that box should be here within the next two weeks, but I think it’ll take them [the construction crew installing the storm sewer pipes] two weeks to get to Congress anyway.

“That’s huge pipe and you’ve got to dig everything out and put everything in and it’s going to take them some time,” Kyker added.

The work being done along South Congress Avenue is related to the project, but is not part of the storm sewer itself, he noted. The eastern sidewalk along part of South Congress Avenue is torn up because sanitary sewers and waterlines had to be moved to create space for the storm sewers, Kyker said.

Much of the project is funded by two state grants — a $2 million Fast-Track Public Infrastructure grant from August 2020 and a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant for public infrastructure from January 2019. It leaves the city directly responsible for $628,950.01, for which Polo City Council members have approved issuance of general obligation bonds.

The FTPI grant requires recipients to make a “good faith effort” to award at least 25% of a project to Business Enterprise Program certified companies.

According to the Illinois Department of Control Management Services, which oversees the BEP, certification requires a business to have at least 51% ownership by a minority, woman or disabled person; be at least 51% controlled by one or more minority groups, women or disabled people; be owned by a U.S. citizen or U.S. foreign national; and have annual gross sales of less than $75 million.

The state approved the city’s request for a BEP waiver after Martin & Co. contacted roughly 125 BEP certified businesses in an attempt to met grant requirements. However, only three signed on to the Colden Street Project, bringing Polo to about 15% of the 25% BEP allocation required.

“There just aren’t enough [BEP certified businesses] in Illinois and in our area,” Kyker said. The company providing the vaults “got buried” in contracts, and that, combined with supply shortages, worked against them, he said.

Kyker said he isn’t sure how much of the Colden Street Project will be completed this year, noting that construction crews will cross Route 26 twice during the project — once at Colden Street and once at Mason Street.

“They may not want to take and dig up that highway in the middle of winter,” Kyker said. “They want to make sure they get it dug up and they get blacktop back down to keep that highway going. Well, if it’s too late [in the year], the blacktop doesn’t work right.”

There’s a chance Martin & Co. will decide to cross Route 26 once this year, and wait until 2023 to cross it a second time, he said. None of the streets which currently are, or are scheduled to be, torn up can be left as gravel through the winter, Kyker said.

“I’d be plowing gravel into peoples’ yards and I cannot salt gravel because it gets soft and people get stuck,” he said. “If there was ice out there, I would have to just keep spreading gravel on that road all winter long, and it would be a bummer for everybody living there.”

Chances are that whatever underground construction Marin & Co. can complete by the end of October will be where they leave off for 2022, Kyker said.

Alexa Zoellner

Alexa Zoellner

Alexa Zoellner covers Ogle County for the Oregon Republican Reporter, Forreston Journal, Mt. Morris Times and Polo Tri-County Press. She has six-plus years of experience in journalism and has won numerous awards.