Tim Leeds Havre Daily News email@example.com
A meeting held by Nelcon Inc. about the planned reconstruction of U.S. Highway 2 where it runs through Havre as First Street had some surprises, both for people attending the meeting and for Nelcon. Sam Weyers, project manager for Nelcon, said he was unaware that some of the sidewalks on the north side of First Street were over vaults, and business owners seemed surprised when a NorthWestern Energy representative said alley entrances on some of the avenues between First and Second avenues will have to be closed while work is done on gas mains with traffic down to one lane or detoured while the work is done. David Boles of NorthWestern Energy said that some work has to be done in some avenues, particularly Fifth, Third, First and Montana, to adjust gas line mains to allow utility work during the construction. “Third Avenue might be closed a week while we work to replace a (gas) main,” Boles said during the meeting. Nelcon, based out of Kalispell, was contracte d by t h e Mo n ta n a De p a r tme n t o f Transportation to rebuild First Street and construction began last summer. The project includes replacing utilities and beautification projects, as well as replacing the pavement, curbs, gutters and sidewalks on the street. Havre Mayor Bob Rice said in an interview that Weyers hit it on the head when he said at the meeting that there would be inconveniences during the project, but added that the end result will be worth it. “Just think about what we’ll have when we’re done,” Rice said. “That’s the light at the end of the tunnel.” Rice added that the City of Havre will use any of its resources available to help during the construction. “We’re more than willing to step up to the plate,” Rice said. “ We’ll help any way we can.” Alleyway access Several business representatives asked Boles what will happen to access to alleys during the work done on the gas lines, including areas where trucks commonly deliver to businesses using alleyway access. Larry DeRosa of Northern Home Essentials, located on the 200 block of First Street, said his business had repaved the alley behind the business to allow parking and use of a door there. He asked how the work on the avenues by the alley intersections would impact that. Boles said the work will require closing the alley access from the avenues while work is done, although only one side will be closed at a time. He said he expects at this point that no work will have to be done on Second Avenue, so only the Third Avenue alley access would be impacted on the 200 block. Boles said this morning that work has to be done in sequence at different locations, with the Alley access expected to be shut off for a day, possibly two, at a time at each avenue. The alley access will not be closed for the duration of work on each avenue, he said. “We realize the imposition we’re putting on the people who do business there,” he said. The exact amount of work required at each location is unknown at this time, Boles said. “We have a good plan of what we need to do, we just need to verify it,” he said. The amount of frost under the ground will determine when work can start, he said at Wednesday’s meeting, adding that ground warmers might be used to speed up the process. The largest amount of time is likely to be needed on Third Avenue, with work also needed on Montana, First, Fifth, and 10th avenues, said Boles. The most work will be done in the avenues, Boles said, If all goes according to plan, disruptions in service should be minor, Boles said after the meeting. It will simply require disconnecting the old main for each customer needing a new connection, making the new connection and checking with the natural gas customer to make sure service is working, he said. That will mostly be done on the north side of First Street. Boles said that people with questions about the project can call him at 262-2213. Sidewalk issues Weyers said he was not aware of vaulted sidewalks in the area now being torn up before it was brought up at the meeting. Business owners said there are vaulted sidewalks in front of several of the buildings on the north side of the 300 block of First Street. Rice said at the meeting that the vaults exist from the time of the tunnels beneath the streets. Although the vaults are no longer connected to Havre Beneath the Streets, where displays of historical businesses are set up beneath the block from Second to Third avenues and First and Second streets, they are part of the same system, he said. He had stated that there were vaulted sidewalks on the block during the planning stage of the project, Rice said. Gary Berg of the Montana Department of Transportation said in an interview Wednesday that exactly what will happen and what will be done with the vaults will not be known until more is found out about the vaults themselves. He said that block will be skipped for removing the sidewalks until more is known. “It could be a big problem,” he said. “I guess it depends on what we find under there.” He said that, at this point, he was not aware of why the presence of the vaults was not known and how they were left out of the planning for the project. Weyers said this morning that the problem might not be that bad. Initial investigation shows that the vaults do not extend all the way under the sidewalks, he said. “It appears it’s not as big a problem as expected,” Weyers said. Bob Evans Jr. Of Master Sports, which is on the north side of the 300 block of First Street, raised the issue of sidewalk access before the vaults were brought up. He said it will be difficult for customers to access some businesses if the sidewalk is torn up; it will make it almost impossible to provide access for people with disabilities, and it also raises some major safety concerns. “There are some issues I think we should try to get together and alleviate,” Evans said. Debbie Vandeberg, executive director of the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce, asked if it might not be possible to set up alternate entrances so customers don’t have to use the First Street access. Several people replied that while that is possible for some businesses and entrances to residences on the block, it will be difficult for others. Weyers said the contract for the work specifies using gravel to level the area where the sidewalks are torn up. Other solutions might be found, he said. The sidewalk has to be removed so utility work, such as installing new sanitary sewer mains, can be done before other work can proceed, he said. Berg said at the meeting that some solutions, such as putting down plywood to use as a walkway, might be found. “We are committed to making sure there is access,” he said.