Making the best of it
Echo residents are looking at the long picture when it comes to road construction, but in the meantime moving through the streets can be precarious — and hilarious
ECHO Charter School kids seem to have fun riding the bus with the streets all torn up for the big infrastructure project the town is undertaking.
Some days bus drivers had the challenge of weaving between two large pieces of construction equipment, a bull dozer on one side of the street and a backhoe on the other.
“The kids find that kind of fun, like a roller coaster ride,” bus driver and transportation director Rita Donner said. “They’ve even told me to drive right over some of the mounds in the roads. ‘The bus can take it,’ they say.”
The bus drivers have had a standing joke since the project started. They would ask every morning, “Which route will they have us coming and going on today?” It would depend on which area of town the construction crew was working on any given day, Donner said.
“It has been a challenge getting in and out of town,” she said. “Everything has been moving slow. How we enter and leave the school changes depending on the road work.”
It was a good thing that it hasn’t rained much, either, Donner said. “It’s slimy. That gets to be challenging, too.”
The plans are to leave the streets gravel all winter long. The construction crew keeps smoothing out the roads, Donner said.
“I think all the roads are passable, now, but it’s still slow go.”
ECHO trap shoot coach Jessica Lienerts is a frequent driver in Echo. As a coach and a mother who often drives her children to school, she also found it challenging to navigate the dug-up roads.
“It’s a different route every day when I bring my kids to school (and work is going on),” Lienerts said. “What people need to remember is that they’re doing it for the betterment of the town.”
“We try to make the best of it,” Donner said.
Echo resident Mary “Mickey” McClaren managed to make her way into Sandalz Bar and Grill. She, too, said the roads are better now, but when construction is going on, even delivery persons have a hard time finding their way around town.
“Once my niece was about to receive a delivery, but I had to meet the driver at the bank,” McClaren said. “One other time, when my niece was coming to visit, I had to ask the construction crew how she could get into my place. They called all over to make a map for her.”
McClaren said that any time she’s had to ask them anything, they were very courteous.
“It’s been an incredible inconvenience, though,” she said. “I don’t know how long the suspension system in my car will last.”
McClaren also acknowledged that she believed the situation would remain the same into next year. All things considered, though, she also believes that the city council is trying to do what’s right for the residents, even fixing water drainage problems that contributed to flooding a couple of summers ago.
“If it has to be done, it has to be done,” McClaren said.
The streets project was made possible by a large grant and covered replacing some sewer pipes, relining manholes and some that still need to be done before winter.
“The substantial completion date for the $2.89 million project is November 15,” site manager Don Broberg said. “The final completion date is June 30, 2018.”
“Insituform, a subcontractor to Kuechle Underground, will be done around December 15,” project engineer Paul Jurek said. “The schedule has been moving out a bit.”
Then, the contractor will come back and line about 15 manholes.
“The underground construction was done first,” Jurek said. “This lining is on existing manholes that are still in good shape.”
Jurek also said that Yellow Medicine County will be doing the sidewalk, curb and gutter on Second Avenue, also known as main street and Yellow Medicine County Road 20.
Normally having main street in front of a business tore up would create havoc with customer attendance, but Sandalz Bar and Grill personnel believed it was offset with the construction crew coming in regularly to eat. Additionally, the establishment invited its customers to park out back when main street was at its worst, as people did during the town’s summer celebration.
Next year will also see action as the county will come in and resurface the street.
“The county tends to let streets set over the winter, to really let them pack down,” Jurek said.