Several years in the making, Rhinelander’s downtown utility project begins
By Eileen Persike
It was a bright sunny day, with blowing wind and construction noises adding ambiance, when a small group gathered at the corner of Courtney and Davenport Streets next to a pile of dirt. With shovels in hand and a count of three, the Rhinelander infrastructure project was launched with a ground breaking.
City leaders, decision makers, lawmakers, representatives of a government funding agency, business owners and residents came together to celebrate one of the largest projects in history taken on by the city.
“The planning for this started several years ago with th
e knowledge of the city’s aged underground utilities and their great need of repair,” Mayor Dick Johns told the assembly. “We have been very fortunate to secure grants from various state and federal sources to assist with financing.”
Support for the project was provided through both state and federal agencies including the Wisconsin Department of Administration, Wisconsin DNR and nearly one-third of the funding for the $9.7 million project came from a combination of loans and grants from USDA Rural Development programs.
“These things don’t happen by accident,” said USDA Rural Development State Director Stan Gruszynski. “These things happen when people set aside their differences and look to the future and plan for the future and then do what needs to be done to move the community forward.”
Mark Barden with Town and Country, the engineers for the infrastructure project, said he and the construction crew appreciate the business owners’, residents and shoppers’ patience during the project.
“This project is not only going to help rebuild deteriorating infrastructure downtown but the beautification will help to revitalize the area,” Barden added.
“Town and Country is very excited to play a role in this, not only as the engineers, but as residents of this town.”
The project will provide for the separation of the existing combined sanitary and storm water sewers in the downtown area; address the aged and deteriorated combined sewer and manholes; eliminate potential for sanitary sewer backups; upgrade both sewer systems to meet engineering standards and adhere to City policy and State sewer separation requirements. The separation of the sanitary and storm sewers will also help to prevent the bypass of raw sewage into the Wisconsin River. The additional Streetscape project will increase the width of sidewalks, plant trees and flowers and other beautification projects.
“Few people want to talk about this, but moving communities forward costs money,” Gruszynski said. “There’s just no way we can get around that and we need to be willing to raise the resources and invest the money to make that happen.”
Downtown businesses will remain open during the construction season. The city’s goal is to have functional streets by fall, with final paving in spring, 2017.