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Normal Council Moves Up Oakdale Water Main Replacement

The Normal Town Council meets remotely, Monday, April 5, 2021.

A Normal subdivision plagued by aging water mains and discolored water will see those pipes replaced two years ahead of schedule after the Normal Town Council voted Monday to begin the project next month.

The council voted unanimously during its virtual meeting to spend up to $618,000 with Gibson-City based SNC Construction Inc., for the Oakdale Heights subdivision project. Work begins May 1, and should be done by Aug. 31. SNC is the same contractor handling the current Main Street water main replacement project.

“If somebody’s having an issue today, there’s a good chance that somebody else in that area could have a problem tomorrow,” said Normal Water Director John Burkhart, referring to the plan to move up the project.

Oakdale’s original six-inch cast iron mains date to more than 60 years ago, he said.

The replacements will be eight-inch ductile iron mains, with new valves and fire hydrants. About 2,700 feet of lines under Oakdale, Ruston, and Margaret streets, as well as a small section of Grove Street, will be replaced.

Prior to the vote, during public comments, Jay Logan, speaking on behalf of the membership of Local 99 Plumbers and Pipefitters, said the union was against awarding the bid to SNC because of concerns the contractor used laborers, and not apprenticed plumbers. He said he’s reached out to SNC about its work on Main Street, but was denied placing a Local 99 plumber there. He also criticized giving Normal tax dollars to an out-of-town contractor.

Burkhart said later that SNC’s work on the Main Street project has been impressive, and the company does use licensed plumbers when needed. City Manager Pam Reece noted local bidding preferences were included, but in the end it didn’t make a difference.

Although the vote was unanimous, several council members urged Burkhart to encourage SNC to use local laborers for the upcoming project.

Council member Stan Nord also lamented the town’s lack of attention to the Oakdale subdivision’s water mains until recently. But town staff and other council members defended the process that led to the main replacement.

Reece said the town does capital improvement plans in five-year cycles. Water mains are strategically replaced based on age and quality, she said, with about $18 million going toward such eight-inch line replacements in the past five years.

The Oakdale Heights section originally was to be replaced in two years. However, with the rust issues emerging there, and because the water fund is in good shape, Normal was able to expedite the project, she said.

Council member Karyn Smith said initially, only a few households reported the rust-colored water. 

“It is welcome that we had a budget that allowed the flexibility to move this up, once it was understood that the problem required attention more immediate than we previously had engendered,” she said.

Town officials said the SNC bid was about a third less than the engineer’s estimate.  Burkhart said that’s mostly because it’s a small company with low overhead.

Sewer project at close to $1 million 

Also at Monday’s meeting, the council awarded a contract of about $964,000 to Goodfield-based Hoerr Construction Inc. for the town’s 2021 sanitary sewer lining project.

The unanimous vote also adjusts the project budget. Initially, the town planned to spend $840,000. But the low bid was 15% higher than the engineering estimate, due to rising material costs. The additional money will be taken from the town’s sewer fund.

The project is part of the town’s 2017 sanitary sewer master plan. The 2021 work includes lining 11,000 feet of pipe at the following locations: Adelaide, Beaufort/Vernon, Kingsley, Oak, Porter/Turner/Barton, Willow/University, and Beech/Locust, as well as along Sugar Creek from Blair to College Avenue, and at the Constitution Trail near Hidden Creek Nature Sanctuary.

Legal pot interest grows

In another matter, cannabis retailer Beyond Hello got the greenlight to triple its parking at 501 W. Northtown Road.

Originally opened as a medical marijuana dispensary, Beyond Hello saw an increase in sales when Illinois legalized adult-use marijuana in 2020. According to council materials, since that time, its 20-space lot frequently is full, and customers must park in nearby lots, or on Eagle Road.

The council’s unanimous vote to amend the business’s special use permit allows the business to add required landscaping to just the piece of property with the new 40-space parking lot, or about one-third of the lot.

In other business, the council:

  • Reapproved a preliminary subdivision plan for The Vineyards at the southeast corner of Airport and Raab roads. The plan expires every three years.
  • Awarded a $40,000 contract to Erb Turf Equipment Inc. to replace Ironwood Golf Course equipment. 
  • Appointed Lauren Lurkins to the Children’s Discovery Museum Foundation board. 

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Michele Steinbacher is a WGLT correspondent. She joined the staff in 2020.
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