Lebanon’s Roger and Merril project will soon be up for bids

By Angela Simmons

LEBANON – Mayor Rich Wilken presented the map of the proposed engineering changes to flood zones on Roger Drive and Merril Street to the streets and alleys committee. A current 24 inch pipe will be removed and 160 feet of larger pipe will be laid to help increase flow. 

The map of the project, as created by Mark Rujawitz of Rhutasel and Associates, Inc, was long awaited by city council members. They recently requested that Mayor Wilken request the visual to help move the project forward. The map details multiple areas of need, including grading, new culverts, bends, multiple manholes, and large sections of new pipe. 

Wilken proposed beginning with the laying of the largest section of pipe to help alleviate deep flooding water and sinkholes on the property of longtime resident Noel Harpe’s home, along with several of her neighbors.

“It would start on the west side of Roger in front of Ms. Harpe’s land, and go to the discharge into the ditch behind her property. To the west of her property. The next phase would be the culvert on McKendree Park. When the engineer was here, he said it’s kind of cattywampus in there,” Wilken said. 

Wilken has been heading up the project alongside Streets and Alleys Supervisor Jody McNeese. The pair has met with representatives from McKendree University, federal and state organizations, and retained Rujawitz to create a plan of attack to solve an issue that spans more than twenty years. 

“I had discussions with Jody and Mr. (Landall) Mack trying to brainstorm a bit. We really believe that we need to get out for bids and get this project going. In our discussion, we thought we’d like to recommend going out for bids and to try to get the job done in the 2018-2019 fiscal year. This is kind of a lean time for income inside the city, and if financing is a problem, we do have the $80,000 line of credit that the treasurer got for us. It’s just sitting there unused, and it doesn’t look like we’re going to need it for what we had thought. We could dip into it, and when we go into the 2019-2020 fiscal year, the minute that all the real estate tax money comes in and our general fund gets healthy again, we can make a choice whether to pay off the short-term note immediately so we have that $80,000 line of credit in case of emergencies again, or we can pay off part of it or something. When this project is done, hopefully in this fiscal year, in 2019-2020, we can look at getting the other part of the project done so we can finally put a period on this all too long of a sentence,” Wilken explained.

The line of credit was originally set to use for the demolition at 124 St. Louis Street and legal fees if needed. Alderwoman Cheri Wright believed that the money was partially used, but Wilken says it hasn’t, and the city was able to use other funds to pay for the demolition. Alderman Al Gerdes questioned whether or not the line of credit was also supposed to help the city have a buffer “needed for down at the grocery store.”

“It was in case we needed anything for EDR or if we needed more money to pay legal fees for 124 St. Louis Street. We’re going to court next week for that, and we have not had to touch the line of credit. We may not need any money for this project. I’m just saying that it’s there, and we aren’t paying any interest on it. If we did need it, we have it there to use,” said Wilken. 

When Alderman Mack asked if they gave their recommendation that the city council put the project out for bid, Gerdes quipped “I’m all for it. It’s been long enough. Too many wet socks.”