Street projects winding down after mucky Meade slowed progress

Thursday, September 12, 2019
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Chad Knudson photo

Century Construction crews returned to Glendive this week to complete a sidewalk project on Merrill Avenue. The project had been interupted after vaults were found under some sidewalks. The crews first needed to fill the vaults before repouring the sidewalks.

“My goodness it’s been quite a summer.”

City Councilwoman Avis Anderson’s concise summary of construction in the summer of 2019 was the exclamation point on a summary of progress provided by city officials at the City Streets committee meeting Monday.

“The paving and curbs are done on Meade and the street is open,” Public Works Director Jack Rice said. “There’s a lot of yard work and sprinklers left to repair, but the paving and curbs are done.”

Director of Operations Kevin Dorwart said the final price tag is somewhat in flux due to change orders to dig out “all the mucky stuff.” He said the final numbers are not yet available.

Rice said Tuesday the “mucky stuff” refers to gumbo (silty soils that can absorb large amounts of water and become waxy and sticky when wet) discovered to be in great abundance along Meade.

“We knew there’d be some, but there was more than we anticipated,” he said. “They were trying to bridge, essentially a swamp.”

Coulees like the one that runs past the high school used to be more numerous, but were filled in as the town developed. The water still follows those natural paths and creates a swampy subsurface – a condition that contributed to the poor quality of Meade in the first place – Rice said.

“In trying to build a base to support a street (the contractor) kept running into wet, wet gumbo. They tried digging some out and adding gravel, but when they tried to put the compactor on it, the mud would just squish up the sides. They ended up digging deeper and deeper.”

Excavating all the gumbo and replacing it with suitable base materials resulted in the change order, which Rice said the city had the chance to veto, but they chose not to.

“It had to be done,” he said.

All the excavation also resulted in an enormous amount of the stuff deposited at the landfill. Rice said there it can be put to beneficial use.

“It dries out when laid out and exposed to the air. We use it to cover garbage,” he said. “We use it in thin layers so we aren’t creating a swamp out there.”

Across town the pavement preservation project on Barry Street and South Sargent is substantially complete now that the permanent painting has been completed on the curbs and stripes. However Rice said he’s asked the state to revisit one site.

“I’ve asked the (Department of Transportation) to look into South Sargent and Hughes,” he said. “After they overlaid it a huge puddle developed on the east side of South Sargent at Hughes.”

Rice said that puddle undercuts the goal of pavement preservation, and so DOT plans to put in a valley gutter at that intersection.

At the City Finance, Utilities, Property and Recreation Committee meeting, officials said while the street projects are winding down, the water treatment plant construction is just winding up.

“They are ramping up. The digging is mostly complete,” Dorwart said. “You’ll start seeing 15-25 people working over there in the not too distant future,” adding there have been only a half dozen or so at work on the site to date.

According to Dorwart, the biggest impact of the water plant construction so far has been the copious amounts of dirt excavated on the site.

“We had to shut them down on some of our properties because we just ran out of room for dirt,” he said. “A lot of it was good top soil, so we had that taken out to the county shop.”

Surprisingly, while more water than expected was found under Meade, less than expected was found at the water plant construction site.

“They perforated a pipe and went down to that shale layer which is the bottom of the river,” Dorwart said. “They haven’t found a lot of groundwater, which was highly anticipated.”

The lack of dewatering required should facilitate construction.

The next meeting of the Glendive City Council is Tuesday, Sept. 23 at 7 p.m.

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