2018 saw much construction around City of Wabash

Crews take advantage of warmer January Weather to work at the Inclusive Park on Carroll Street in Wabash. Photo by Joseph Slacian. 

By Joseph Slacian

If 2018 could have a name in the City of Wabash, it might be “The Year of Construction.”

Numerous construction projects took place around the city, and many of them will continue into 2019.

Many of the projects were in conjunction with the city’s Stellar Community Grant designation. In 2014, the city, as well as the City of Huntingburg, received the designation through the program which is a collaboration between the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, the Office of Community and Rural Affairs and the state’s Department of Transportation.

Though it was originally thought that the projects to be partially funded through state and federal grants had to be completed by the end of 2018, Mayor Scott Long later learned that the city, indeed, could continue the work into 2019.

“I made some contacts with the state agencies,” Long told The Paper of Wabash County during an interview looking back at 2018. “Most of the projects, their only requirements are that the projects be under construction prior to the deadline, or nearing completion.”

One of the projects that will continue into this year is the State Road 13-15 Corridor Improvement project. That project seeks to improve the highways, also known as South Wabash Street, from Canal Street south to Smith Street, just north of the Wabash River bridge. Work includes two 12-foot travel lanes with a 14-foot two-way left turn lane. Decorative crosswalks and various other landscape items also are included in the project.

Much of the delay in the project, Long said, was due in part to utility companies preparing the area for the work.

“We gave them plenty of advance notice,” the mayor said, “but we’re kind of at their mercy. That delayed that project by four months even starting.”

Work was to have started in early April, he noted, but it wasn’t until early August before it actually began. INDOT has ordered the city to stop work during the winter months, so that project won’t be completed until sometime this spring. However, the project likely won’t be officially finished until sometime this fall.

“The one part that won’t be done is some of the plantings we’re putting along the street are fall plantings,” Long said. “It will be essentially complete in late spring, but the plants won’t go in until late fall. We wanted to make sure we picked plants that could withstand road salt and all that and not die. We don’t want to have to replant every spring.”

The plants won’t be in flower boxes as they are in the downtown area. Rather, ground level plants were selected for the roadway.

“We’re very selective with the plantings so they don’t grow too high and create vision problems pulling out of businesses down there,” Long said. “We’re trying to think ahead and cover all the bases. We don’t want to have a misstep and have to redo it.”

A planned for over the roadway greeting those entering the city from the south will be installed later this spring.
The inclusive park, located on South Carroll Street across from the Wabash County YMCA, also will be completed later this year.

“We were all hoping to have it open in the fall,” Long said. “Obviously that didn’t happen. One of the things we ran into is the economy got so good that the contractors got really busy and covered up.”

The restroom facility for the site was delivered recently.

“I drive by there about once a week,” Long said. “You’re able to see a little more progress if you space your drive-bys.”
Shelly Myers, co-chair of the Inclusive Park Committee, noted that “they are installing equipment and it is so cool.”

“The poured in place surfacing requires a warmer ground temperature in order to be installed, so that's going to have to wait until spring, thanks to the absence of a decent fall,” she continued. “They are continuing to work on pouring concrete and installing equipment and will until the weather forces them to stop.  At that point there will be a stall in work until temperatures warm up again in the spring.  They will do all that they can pre-surface installation, and then as soon as the surface can be installed in the spring they will get that in, finish up landscaping and put the finishing touches on the project.
We will make plans this winter for an opening ceremony to be held in the spring.

The Rock City Lofts, another Stellar project, was completed, and the Stellar portion of the Historic Eagles Theatre renovation also was wrapped up.

While many may think all the improvements have taken place downtown, that’s not the case.

“I had out Street Department and Gaunt and Son contracted to put some new sidewalks on Pike Street from McKibben Street working east,” Long said. “I don’t know how many feet we got done, but that project will continue next spring as well. I want to get new sidewalk on the south side of Pike Street all the way to Vernon Street to give those residents on the southwest part of town, sidewalks to walk to the park that was improved by the Kiwanis.”

The sidewalks, the mayor noted, have deteriorated to the point where in a few places they were non-existent.

“We removed trees from a small tree lawn because that’s what was buckling the sidewalks,” he continued. “I made the decision to just take them out. We’re not going to replace that and (try to) discourage homeowners from planting trees in that small strip of grass, too, so that they’ll last a lot longer.”

Sidewalk work also took place on Miami Street near Wabash High School, and there are some areas near the former Ivy Tech campus on Thorne Street that are in need of repair.

“I’ve always tried, since I’ve been in office, to go to different neighborhoods to get things done,” Long said. “People don’t realize that you do that. I had a lady on the south side say, ‘Well, you never do anything on the south side.’

“Well, we just did a massive sewer separation there. Linlawn and Berkley got new streets. We did Pike and Columbus streets with new storm lines, separation and repaved full width of the street. I don’t know. They complain when construction is going on, but you never get a compliment when the road is done and it’s nice and smooth.”

Work continued on the stormwater and sewer separation project.

“We finished up the south side Phase 2,” Long said. “I expect in early 2019, Phase 3 will start on Miami Street.”

The city’s road project along North Wabash Street near the new Parkview Wabash Hospital was completed last year.

“We had some drainage construction work, and we were fortunate that Parkview agreed to oversize its detention pond so that when we did the Wabash Street project, we could take storm water runoff and it goes off to that pond,” Long said. “It does not hit Charley Creek in quick order, or Pizer Ditch. I think that really alleviated some flooding issues in the Miami and Euclid street areas.

Work on the second phase of the Alber Street project is likely to begin later this spring. The Alber Street project calls for widening the road to include a parking lane to the east, adding a sidewalk adjacent to the parking lane, and installing new curbs, gutters, and a sewer system from Euclid Street north.

Long is entering his fourth year, and faces a re-election bid this year. He is not going to let that deter him from conducting the city’s day-to-day business.

During his first year, he recalled, he attended a mayoral conference at which a veteran mayor told him he likely wouldn’t get anything done his third year in office. When asked why, the veteran mayor told him that during his third year, he was going to have to start thinking about his re-election.

“My response to that is the people didn’t elect me to sit around for one year anticipating an election,” he said. “I told my department heads: We did a log of construction the second year and we had a lot of people voicing complaints about what we were doing. But I said we’re going to keep working and if they complain they complain. If they’re not complaining, then I think I’m not doing my job. It goes to show me that everything they’re complaining about is progress the city is making.

“In my fourth year, yes, it’s an election year, but I’m going to keep working. I don’t know any other way to do the job.”

Posted on 2019 Jan 08