Gas Light District project set for fall

WESTFIELD – The City Council Thursday night referred a $2,750,000 appropriation request submitted by Mayor Daniel M. Knapik to its Finance Committee for further review during the summer recess. The council will next meet on Aug. 16, 2012.
Finance Chairman Richard E. Onofrey said Thursday night after the council before the council meeting the $2.75 million transfer from the Wastewater Treatment Plant Infiltration and Inflow (I&I) account to the I&I construction account will refund replacement of sewer lines in the Gas Light District project which carries an estimated cost of $5 million. The Gas Light District is the area of downtown located between Elm and Washington streets and between Franklin and Court streets.
Knapik said Friday the Gas Light District project was “conceived over a decade ago to coincide with downtown revitalization. It needs to be done because those utilities are so old.”
The project was separated from the Elm Street reconstruction projects as a stand-along city project.
“When I came into office in 2010 I requested a bond to do the design and engineering with the idea that when that was complete, we could move forward,” Knapik said. “These old town efforts are so destructive because you have to rip up the roads and sidewalks to get at the underground utilities, so most of the work repaving and installing sidewalks will be part of the utility project costs. The city will be responsible for some paving and parking lot work, but we’ll have to wait to see the extent of that.”
Knapik said the Elm Street building project is back on track, with a feasibility study being funded through the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority and a state brownfield grant for remediation soil contamination behind the Elm Street property, where a new commercial, retail and residential building will be constructed.
“That project is back on track, so we’ll walk away from this project with all the roadwork done, ready for the building project,” he said.
City Engineer Mark Cressotti said Friday that the city anticipates beginning the replacement of underground utilities, water, gas and sewer lines, this fall, then completing the project during the 2013 construction season. Those three departments will upgrade their infrastructure and will fund the majority of the project.
“We’re hoping to get it started this fall, get some of the utilities under the pavement, then patch the roads and put it to bed for the winter, starting again next spring,” Cressotti said. “The (Westfield) Gas & Electric Department is getting a head start replacing gas line.”
The city did an assessment of areas of the city where the volume of ground water infiltration into sewer lines is the highest and sets priority on spending the I&I funds on that assessment. The city has used other technology, such as liners injected into sewer mains, to reduce the amount of ground water seeping into sewer lines, but the deterioration of the sewer lines requires more traditional methods
“The district project will address one of the areas of high infiltration,” Cressotti said. “The sewers need to be relaid.  Some are very old.”
The city established the I&I fund to address a requirement set by the state Department of Environmental Projection that was part of the permit to expand the city’s sewerage treatment plant. Ground water flowing into sewer lines substantially increases the volume of water being treated at the plant, making it less cost effective to operate the treatment plant.
“The city established the I&I account to accomplish the removal of infiltration water,” he said.
City officials will conduct a meeting with residents and business owners in the project area.
“We are reaching out to landowners who would be significantly impacted and plan a public information meeting in late August,” Cressotti said. “There could be some disruption of business, parking, pedestrian access, so we are trying to be sensitive to that.”
Cressotti said the access road through the Arnold Street parking lot is being relocated to create a site for a parking deck associated with the Elm Street commercial development project. Efforts are being made to enhance the pedestrian access in the area which has a heavy arts and entertainment clientele.

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