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Sewer line project creates mess for local businesses

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Recent cold temperatures are hindering progress on the Town of Hotchkiss' main sewer line rehabilitation project. "The alleys are really frozen," said town engineer Joanne Fagan. With frost forming up to two feet below the surface, contractor Williams Construction is currently working on replacing manholes in sunnier, warmer locations.

Fagan estimates the million-dollar project at about 20 percent complete.

Most of the sewer line work is located in alleyways, which has created problems for Williams, and for some local businesses. Kim Shay with Ace Gambles of Hotchkiss said she understands the project had to happen, but the alleyway behind their business is "at ground zero."

Due to mud in the alleyway, customers are forced to find parking elsewhere, and workers have had to unload delivery trucks by hand since Thanksgiving.

"You need a four-wheeler to get through," said Shay. If the forklift gets stuck, they have to get a backhoe to pull it out. "I don't want to get a backhoe to get a forklift unstuck daily in this process," said Shay. The section of alleyway behind West Elk and Weekender Sports is also "horrendous," said Shay.

Shay said that having to carry bags of wood pellets and concrete and other heavy items puts her employees at risk for injury. "I don't know what the answer is, but we need to come up with something."

Fagan said the plans call for the contractor to contour the alley to improve drainage when the project is complete. They are working daily to correct the problem, said Fagan, who scheduled time to meet with Shay and discuss possible solutions. Even if they put down a different rock base, "You're still going to have drainage problems."

The problem has been ongoing for years, said Shay. Drainage issues along the entire block and water coming off of vacant lots into the parking lot, "creating what is sometimes less than affectionately know as 'Lake Gambles.'" Shay said she's been warned that if the parking lot/lake is filled in, water will get pushed to houses to the south and possibly cause flooding. "I don't want to cause anybody problems here," said Shay, adding that the town needs to find a creative drainage solution.

Site superintendent Lewie Lewis said his crews are doing what they can under the freeze/thaw conditions and have been putting gravel down in the alleys. "There's at least a foot and a half of frost on top, and two feet of muck below that," said Lewis.

Once work is complete, said Lewis, Williams will back fill and put in road base and drainage, as required by the contract. For now, said Lewis, "You just can't do it in these conditions."

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North Fork
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Hotchkiss, Sewer
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