As orange season has given way to a deep blanket of snow, work on the City of Rhinelander's $18 million Stevens Street reconstruction project is on hold until the spring of 2020.
To give the public a status report on what was completed in 2019, and what they can look forward to in 2020 and beyond, engineers and contractors working on the project held an informational meeting Wednesday evening at City Hall.
The meeting, led by project engineer Mark Barden of Town and Country Engineering, and attended by representatives of contractor Musson Bros. as well as city public works officials Tom Roeser and Dan Hekrdle, drew approximately 10 people.
The only elected official present was alderman Steve Sauer, who took notes and asked questions throughout. City administrator Daniel Guild, the interim director of the city's public works department, was not present.
"We're halfway through it," Barden said of the project, before listing everything that was accomplished during the 2019 construction season. That list included new sanitary sewers, new water main, storm sewers, sewer and water laterals, new curb and gutter, new asphalt and a new base structure for the road and sidewalk.
"This year we started from Frederick Street, basically where we left off the downtown project, and went all the way up to Kwik Trip," he said.
Barden said the hope is work will resume sometime in March, however he repeatedly stressed that "weather plays a big factor" and the schedule is subject to change.
When work resumes, the first order of business will be to go through a "punch list" of items leftover from 2019, he said.
"What you can anticipate for 2020 is we have another almost a mile left," Barden said, noting that approximately 1.2 miles were completed this year.
Weather permitting, Barden said the goal is to complete all utility work up to Woodland Drive by July 3, when the project will pause for the annual Hodag Country Festival.
There will be some road closures, necessary for the safety of the contractors, Barden said, but noted that the closures will only be for a limited time only and the goal is to ensure access to all businesses along that stretch.
Barden also noted the city expects to hold another public informational meeting in February to advise those living on the north end of Stevens Street of what they can expect during the 2020 construction season.
Some of the residents present Wednesday expressed concern about the status of their driveways while a business owner asked for signage to advise the public that businesses on Stevens Street are open to customers.
Barden admitted some concrete work was not completed before the fall shutdown, forcing workers to fill some driveways with recycled material as a stopgap measure.
Some of the residents present described their driveways as "all sunken and wavy" and "battered, bruised and beaten."
One woman said there were no cracks in her driveway before the project but now it has "ruts and holes in it."
"I honestly don't know what to do," she said.
Barden and representatives from Musson Bros. indicated that Stevens Street residents with driveway issues caused by the project should contact Musson's for assistance.
A local business owner asked the panel whether signs would be placed advising the public that the businesses on Stevens Street are open. He received a variety of responses including that the city generally tries to avoid being in "the sign business," business owners are allowed to put up their own signs and that the issue of signage may come up before the City Council in the future.
Heather Schaefer may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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