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First phase of fire loop work begins

The Whitworth Fire Loop project to install larger water lines inthe downtown area was scheduled to begin in earnest Monday as crewsbegin installation of shut-off valves at various streetintersections.

Officials with project contractor Greenbriar have been incontact with City Attorney Joe Fernald regarding work schedules andhow the project will progress. The work schedule calls for twoweeks of valve installation on Jackson Street, Cherokee Street andon other downtown streets.

“They’re putting in shut-off valves and digging test holes tofind water lines and planning how they are going to dig,” Fernaldsaid.

Jeff Green, project engineer, said shut-off valves will allowwater to be cut off while new line work is done on individualblocks. Water service taps are to be made so customers are notwithout water during the work period.

“As soon as they get those done, you’ll see them move in fullforce,” Green said about valve installation.

According to a tentative timetable at a June 13 meeting withdowntown business owners, the project was to start July 1 and valvework was forecast to begin July 8.

G. Dale Smith, president of Greenbriar, said the company haddone some exploratory digging to confirm size of lines. Those testsresulted in the need to order different valve material than whathad been predicted.

“It took us a little longer than we had planned this time …but it’s going to be no problem,” Smith said.

A work schedule map presented to Fernald last week has the lineinstallation work being done between July 29 and Aug. 30.

Green said Greenbriar has been closing out several smallerprojects, and that will allow them to concentrate fully on the fireloop project. He downplayed the later start date’s impact on asix-month work schedule.

“A week out of the 150 days isn’t going to make a dent inanything,” Green said.

The first section of the project involves line work on JacksonStreet from Chippewa Street to Monticello Street, and CherokeeStreet from near Brookway Boulevard to South Whitworth Avenue.

“Before the end of August, they hope to be finished with thosetwo streets,” Fernald said.

Smith cautioned about the possibility of unknowns as work startsup.

“I think everybody knows pretty much that we going to run intosome unknowns as we go through there,” he said.

Smith said a more definite idea on a timetable should be readyonce crews get started on the project and see how it progress.Except during actual rainy periods, he did not anticipate weatherhaving a great impact on the project.

“Weather isn’t going to affect us much,” Smith said.

The second section will be the remainder of Jackson Street toCherry Street. The final area will involve West Congress Street toHartman Street.

Construction officials have discussed plans to take a blockapproach to the project.

Street blocks will be completely closed to traffic for plannedfive-day periods. Having the block closed to traffic during thattime will allow work to be done quicker and more efficiently.

The approximately $950,000 project involves installation oflarger water lines to service the Mississippi School of the Arts onthe Whitworth College campus and the rest of the downtown area. Itstargeted completion date is Nov. 27.

The project has drawn the attention of downtown business ownerswho are concerned about the impact of street closures on theirbusinesses. City and construction officials have said the projectschedule will allow work to be completed in the downtown areabefore the start of the holiday shopping season in September.

Regarding work schedules, Fernald said officials are workingwith the media and are planning a public information phone numberfor citizens to call. The attorney also hoped to be able to post awork map in a public area.

Details of those plans are expected to be worked out atTuesday’s city board meeting.

“The board is committed to making sure the public is aware ofwhat’s happening and making sure it is as least inconvenient aspossible,” Fernald said.