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Sewer project goes on despite cold weather

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Photo courtesy Mike Owens/Town of Hotchkiss Workers replace a manhole as part of the Town of Hotchkiss sewer line replacement and rehabilitation project. The work site is enclosed by a trench box, which prevents dangerous cave-ins.

It's not a pretty job anyway, but when it's wet and cold outside, the sewer line replacement project underway in Hotchkiss can get downright mucky. Workers are replacing pipe, some of it originally installed 100 years ago, with the aid of a "trench box," which prevents trenches from dangerous collapses.

Nucla-based contractor Williams Construction got a late start on the project and due to several factors is moving more slowly than anticipated. Town engineer Joanne Fagan and public works manager Mike Owens reported at the Dec. 10 council meeting that the project is about 15 percent complete and progress is continuing.

Most recently the project was slowed while a separate project to clean up fuel from leaking underground gas tanks at the site of a former gas station at the southwest corner of Bridge and Second Street was performed. The tanks were removed several years ago, and the leaked fuel has been known about for years, said Mayor Wendell Koontz. The contractors on the clean-up and Williams Construction coordinated on the cleanup efforts.

"It was a little bit complicated getting everyone on the same page," said Fagan. Had the town not known about the leak and hit the fuel while digging, the project would have been forced to shut down.

While closure of streets and alleys has resulted in a handful of problems with truck deliveries to local businesses, few complaints have been reported and citizens have been very complimentary of workers, according to town clerk Marlene Searle.

The recent cold weather could also cause delays in the project. As long as the frost doesn't get more than a couple of feet deep, work will continue. As of late last week, workers were moving forward with both manhole replacement and laying of sewer pipe. Fagan said the project will continue "for several more weeks," and it will likely be spring before work is complete and everything is cleaned up.

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