Construction on Bench Street is ongoing and the city hopes to see progress on St. Albans and Twiford soon. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS
Construction on Bench Street is ongoing and the city hopes to see progress on St. Albans and Twiford soon. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS

Chatfield’s hired some “boys with big toys” to dig in its dirt...or streets.

“Water, sanitary sewer, storm sewer and the street is being replaced in Bench Street from First to Sixth, and also on Second Street, from Bench to just past Twiford Street,” explained Chatfield’s City Clerk Joel Young. “In addition to these improvements, new sanitary sewer service connections will be provided wherever antiquated services exists.”

Young outlined the improvements currently underway on Bench Street as he gave an update on the city’s $1.990 million 2014 street improvement project that encompasses Bench, Twiford and St. Albans in Chatfield proper and several streets within West Chatfield.

The employees of Zenke Construction of La Crescent, Minn., have been digging in and moving dirt from one corner to the next in this summer’s improvement projects.

Young also explained, “This project was chosen because of the combined deteriorated condition of the street in that area, the undersized water main, and the poor condition and undersized sanitary sewer main.”

He said this project has been on the Public Works priority list for several years. Twiford Street is being improved from Division Street to what would be an intersection with Grove Street.  In addition to improving the street, there are portions of water main and sanitary sewer main that are being relocated and upsized. 

“The relocation of these utilities will allow for greater development between Twiford Street and Main Street and to the west of Twiford Street,” Young said. “This project was chosen because these improvements will lead to the redevelopment of the property adjacent to this street. Redevelopment in this area has been all but impossible due to configuration of the lots, the placement of the utilities, and the condition of the street.” 

The clerk shared that St. Albans Place, which, like Twiford, currently is only flagged for construction, will be given a smooth surface. 

“St. Albans Place will receive a mill and overlay to make the driving surface like new,” he said. “Before that is completed, water and sanitary sewer services will be extended from the Lone Stone Subdivision, under St. Albans Place and along the frontage to service EZ Fabricating. This project was chosen because of the investment, and new hires that EZ Fabricating has been willing to make in their new property, which fronts on St. Albans Place.” 

West Chatfield will finally be paved, a relief to its residents who have dealt with gravel roads along their frontages for as long as they have lived there. 

“In West Chatfield, Root River Street, Pine Street, Pleasant Street, Coe-Z Lane and a portion of Hill Street will be shaped up and a bituminous driving surface applied,” Young said. “The entire West Chatfield area has desired a bituminous driving surface, but, for a variety of reasons, that had not been accomplished. These improvements should improve the livability of that neighborhood and decrease maintenance costs to the city.  Although this is a very small area of the city, it is always great to eliminate water lines that are smaller than needed, to eliminate sanitary sewer lines that are cracked and porous, and to provide a smooth driving surface to the residents.”

Young cited that money is always one of the challenges of making street and utility improvements happen. 

“Although Chatfield is a relatively small city, it has many miles of water pipe, many miles of sanitary sewer pipe, and many miles of streets,” he said. “These systems are constantly in need of repair and reinvestment, so it is difficult to have enough money on hand to properly take care of them – the city makes every effort to do so without imposing an undue financial burden on the residents.” 

Young also said, “Bids had been received for all of this work by two companies, with the most competitive bid from Zenke Construction, of La Crescent. The bid price was slightly under the engineer’s estimate. The total project cost is expected to be in the neighborhood of $1,990,000. Fortunately, the city did receive approximately $325,000 in grants from the state of Minnesota to assist with the improvements at St. Albans Place and Twiford Street, so the cost to residents will be closer to $1.7 million.”

The project has gone generally smoothly, though some unintended water service interruptions occurred. 

“Letters were sent to specific addresses to invite residents to preliminary meetings and to let people know the general schedule,” Young said. “When water outages are expected, notifications are made a day in advance whenever possible. There have been two incidents when water valves did not hold, and a larger area was affected without notice. The city regrets those instances but that does underscore the reason for the improvements.” 

Additionally, there was a gas line struck by construction equipment during the morning approximately two weeks ago, forcing evacuation of several blocks of homes and part of downtown. 

“That occurred near the intersection of First and Bench,” Young explained. “Although the gas line was properly located, a private service line extended a little higher than was expected by the excavator.  Everyone is grateful that no one got hurt.” 

The project also affected Western Days this past weekend, but only slightly. The most noticeable impact was the parade being re-routed and those attending activities may have found it more difficult to find parking close to the festivities. 

Young pointed out the sanitary sewer improvements on Bench Street are nearly finished and that storm sewer improvements are slated to follow. 

“It is expected that the Bench Street portion will be completed by the end of August, which might be when West Chatfield gets completed, too,” Young said. “The Twiford Street area should be done by late October, early November, as should the St. Albans Place project.” 

Young concluded that “in some sense,” the city has a continuous improvement plan in its “longstanding practice to improve its streets, and it has a good understanding of the condition of its water and sanitary sewer system — the city does invest in these systems every year.”