Archive for Thursday, June 28, 2007

Streetscape sends fire trucks northbound

June 28, 2007

Until further notice, the Baldwin City Fire Department will be responding to calls backward. Well, at least when they leave the fire station.

The long-anticipated $1.8 million Downtown Streetscape project finally started about 4 p.m. Tuesday when crews from Bryant and Bryant construction firm began ripping up the sidewalk in front of Vaughncraft at Sixth and High streets. They are replacing a waterline that goes west from there through downtown Baldwin City as the first leg in the project.

Because of that, the fire trucks will no longer have access to High Street and will have to leave the station from the back door into the alley north of High.

"We'll live with it," said Fire Chief Allen Craig, as he finished taking the big Quint ladder truck out the front way to the south for the last time for awhile and driving it back in the station heading north. "It's an inconvenience. It's just like we had to do for Trains, Planes and Automobiles. It shouldn't cause a problem. We've done it before."

He said there would be no effect on response times to fires. But, he doesn't know about the response time from the construction crew as to when the stretch of sidewalk will be back in place in front of the fire station.

"The problem is, they've given us no time table," said Craig. "It's hard to say with rain and everything else. It could be three weeks. Who knows?"

City Administrator Jeff Dingman didn't anticipate problems with the fire station situation.

"I know the contractor met with Allen (Tuesday) to discuss specifics about what they'll be doing and when," said Dingman. "I was not in on that conversation, but I believe they talked about the fire department going out the back of the station for a minimal amount of time while work is going on out front."

Craig said he was told that a quicker drying concrete would be used in front of the fire station when the project gets to that point to allow a quicker return to normal.

Bryant and Bryant had planned to start the project June 11. However, rain delays at other projects caused that to be moved up to June 18. Then June 25. The crew almost made that date, getting here a day later.

The project was originally slated to be done last year, but a lack of quality bids for the project forced it to be put off for a year. When the crews finally arrived Tuesday, Dingman was happy to see them.

"Yes, it's good to see some destruction downtown," he said. "What I know so far is that they're starting on that side (north) of the street in order for the waterline contractor to get in and install the new pipe. They'll be leaving the portion of the sidewalk closest to the buildings for now in order to maintain accessibility.

"They'll come all the way to the chamber office here on Eighth Street," said Dingman. "Then they'll move along the west side of Eighth in order to install a waterline there. I'm interested to see how it all falls together now that they've started."

Wednesday morning, post office customers had already made several adjustments to how they went about parking and picking up the mail. Newspaper racks, including the Signal and Lawrence Journal-World, will have different locations.

Utility Director Bill Winegar said that the crews will be working from sunup to sundown Monday through Thursday, weather permitting. They won't be working on Fridays. The time frame for completion depends on weather.

As part of the contract for this year's project, it is stipulated that if it isn't finished by the first week in October it will be shut down until after the Maple Leaf Festival Oct. 20-21. Work would then continue after the festival, which is celebrating its 50th year this year.

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