Polo’s $3.7 million storm sewer project wraps up after two years

Colden Street Project meant to help alleviate flooding during torrential rain events

Work on the two-year, $3.5 million Colden Street Project in Polo resumed this week after a winter break. The project encompasses about 10.5 blocks and will help alleviate water buildup on Illinois Route 26 during torrential rain events. Here, employees of the main contractor, Martin & Co., of Oregon, work at the corner of South Congress Avenue and West Mason Street on April 11, 2023.

POLO — Almost nothing went exactly as planned with Polo’s two-year, multi-million dollar storm sewer project, but city officials still are happy with the end results.

The $3.7 million Colden Street Project encompassed about 10.5 blocks, both in the downtown business district and in 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.

“It was a raging river down there between Buffalo and Colden [streets],” said Randy Schoon, a Polo alderman who chairs the Public Works Committee. “It looked like a creek out of its banks. … I can’t see how [this project] didn’t solve a huge amount of trouble. It’s extremely good for our community.”

Per the project plan, storm sewers and catch basins were added or expanded along parts of South Maple Avenue, West Buffalo Street, South Congress Avenue, Colden Street, West Mason Street and halfway into the east alley between Mason and Locus streets. All the streets worked on then were paved curb to curb.

Some of the additional work that came up during the course of the Colden Street Project includes a handful of water and lead service line replacements, repair of a sinkhole and several slight or moderate design changes.

Polo’s sewer system is larger than that of most towns its size, which upped the number of challenges they ran into underground, Public Works Director Kendall Kyker said.

“Every single time we turned a corner, we ran into something,” he said. “Almost every single drawing for this had to be redrawn. They call that ‘as-built.’”

A project cost summary, dated Sept. 18, provided to Shaw Media by the Polo city clerk puts the total at $3,710,273.41. That’s $564,281.72 more than the original project cost of $3,145,991.69.

Schoon noted that the total cost hasn’t yet been finalized. There are some ongoing price negotiations based on assistance the city provided to project contractors at various points, he said.

They also are seeking reimbursement from the state for repairing the sink hole that appeared on Route 26, Schoon said.

The city handed over ownership of Route 26 within city limits to the state in 2022. That means fixing the sink hole wasn’t actually the city’s job, Schoon said.

“We were there, though, and we had no choice but to fix that,” he said.

Repairing the 700-square-foot hole cost $14,821.30, according to the project cost summary.

Much of the Colden Street Project was 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.

At the start of the project, that left the city directly responsible for $628,950.01, for which Polo City Council members approved issuance of general obligation bonds.

Other funding sources listed on the Sept. 18 cost summary include city funds ($150,000); city Motor Fuel Tax funds ($226,131.74); Polo Water Department for the water service and lead pipe replacement ($140,000); Frontier ($8,018.58); and the Polo Fire Protection District ($59,365.09).

Meeting one of the requirements of the FTPI grant was among the first challenges the city faced with the Colden Street Project.

The 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 person with a disability; be at least 51% controlled by one or more minority groups, women or people with disabilities; be owned by a U.S. citizen or U.S. foreign national; and have annual gross sales of less than $75 million.

Of the roughly 125 BEP certified businesses the main contractor – Martin & Co., of Oregon – contacted, only three signed on to the Colden Street Project, Schoon said at the Dec. 20, 2021, Polo City Council meeting. Martin & Co. has records of names to whom they reached out, and dates and times they did so, he said.

Most of those approached weren’t interested because the project is too far away, or is out of their scope, Schoon said.

Polo ultimately was granted a waiver from the state, allowing the Colden Street Project to proceed with only a portion of the called for percentage of BEP contractors.

Another problem arose with the BEP contractors in 2022 when one of them became inundated with business, Kyker said.

Four 60,000- to 70,000-pound pipe vaults were needed for the Colden Street Project, and the company that was providing them was awarded so many contracts by the state that the vaults were delivered more than two months late, he said.

“We had to stop the project and go do something else,” Kyker said.

The portion of the Colden Street Project paid for by Frontier was so that the storm sewer pipes could be routed around an underground phone line at the corner of South Franklin Avenue and Colden Street, Kyker said. It caused a delay because the city had to order a different kind of pipe and a 10,000-pound pipe “vault” in order to go around the lines, he said.

The fire protection district helped cover the cost of a catch basin and piping that runs under the station and its parking lot, Schoon said.

“There was a huge mess there,” he said. “We’d be foolish to have gone that far and not fix that.”

The city and project engineers did a final walk-through in early November, Kyker said. There were a few smaller things that needed to be addressed, but for the most part, all was well, he said.

In the end, the results of the Colden Street Project are wonderful, Kyker and Schoon both said.

It did run a little bit longer than anticipated, but only by a few weeks, Kyker said. He thanked the residents whose homes are on the streets that were torn up during the project for their patience, noting that they were fantastic to the workers and city personnel.

“This project is something that was needed real bad,” Kyker said. “We’re real glad it got done. We were all happy about the way things went, even though it was very difficult to do.”

Alexa Zoellner

Alexa Zoellner

Alexa Zoellner reports on Lee, Ogle and Whiteside counties for Shaw Media out of the Dixon office. Previously, she worked for the Record-Eagle in Traverse City, Michigan, and the Daily Jefferson County Union in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin.