A portion of King Street is expected to undergo a year-long construction project, beginning at the end of August, to replace an old 1.1-mile water line.

The Shippensburg Borough Water Authority invited King Street residents to a public meeting Wednesday at the Vigilant Hose Co. fire station to provide more details about the project. The cast iron water line, which connects to 274 properties, is more than 100 years old.  

Officials project the construction, which will span from Walnut Bottom Road to Morris Street, will cost more than $3 million.

“I’ve been involved in Shippensburg government for about 10 years now, and one of the biggest issues that has haunted the borough and the water authority is aging infrastructure,” said Kerri Burrows, an authority member. “We live in an old town. It’s reality. We haven’t been keeping up with the infrastructure as well as we should have, 30, 40, 50 years ago. We are now trying to make up for some of that. This really is a need.”

The old pipe has a recent history of smaller breakdowns and the authority wants to avoid a larger failure of the water system.

“When Interstate 81 gets closed, all that traffic comes right through King Street downtown, and 50,000-pound tractor-trailers rumble down King Street one after another,” said Chairman Michael Pimental. “If all of that activity, vibration and pressure were to collapse our existing line, it would be a catastrophic failure, and I’m not quite sure how we would get water to people. So we think it’s better to get ahead of this problem.”

Unaccounted water loss has also been a recent issue, and members suspect the old water line may be the culprit.

As a result of the construction, some residents will have to pay a ballpark estimate of $2,000 for the replacement of a lateral pipe that exists on their property and will connect to the new laterals of the main water line.

A lateral will need to be replaced if it is corroded, leaking or deemed to be not sufficient for attachment to the new water line. Pimental said it is only going to be residents with “literally crumbling” laterals, and these laterals will be identified as they dig up the ground.

“I’ll start saving my money,” said resident Jan Rose, after hearing the ballpark estimate of $2,000 from authority member Troy Pomeroy.

Construction is expected to be completed a block at a time, Borough Manager Kevin Plasterer said, all while leaving two lanes of traffic open at all times. Each block, which will require the excavating of a trench, is estimated to take a few weeks, RETTEW Project Manager and Engineer Dennis Hammaker said.

During construction, there will also be temporary parking limitations due to the space needed for construction and the two lanes of traffic.

Hammaker also said construction will take place during the day from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., but occasionally they will work at night for areas with more congestion, like the King Street intersections with Fayette Street and Queen Street.

Pimental said construction will not happen on move-in day for Shippensburg University, the Corn Festival and other days of heavy traffic.

During the meeting, authority members noted they have been anticipating and saving up for this capital improvement project for the last few years, and this is the best time financially to pursue the project without having to take on debt or raise rates.

Members said following the meeting, the authority will not have any more funds following the King Street Project to pursue any other larger multi-million-dollar projects for a few years.

Officials said the project became more of a priority when they learned of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s plan to repave King Street sometime during 2019-20.

During the entirety of the project, Plasterer said the borough will keep communication lines open by providing project status reports on its newly revamped website.

However, how will communication work when Interstate 81 is closed due to an accident?

“I have contacted County 911, both Franklin County and Cumberland County, and they will immediately call me or email me, and I will coordinate with the person that’s in charge of the project, and tell them that they must shut down,” Plasterer said. “When we say this, it doesn’t mean they are going to get off the street immediately. They have to close up what they’ve already opened up, which could be an hour, could be two hours, could be three hours. But, some time before the detour happens, we have some type of a timeframe before it actually happens.”

The authority is stressing the importance of communication during these times of inconvenience for many residents.

“It really goes back to a lot of this being about communication. I mean that's why we are here, to communicate with you,” said Vice Chairman Steven Brenize. “We have our monthly meetings. We're not legally required to have a separate meeting to explain this to the community. We chose to have it because we want to make sure that everybody knows what is going on.”

For residents in need of financial assistance in replacing a lateral, they can apply for funding through a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) through the Department of Community and Economic Development. Dan Robinson, community development director of the Cumberland County Housing and Redevelopment Authorities, said this is only applicable for homeowners, not business owners or landlords.

There will also be a list of contact information for local plumbers, excavators and backhoe operators on the borough’s website for those needing to replace their lateral.

The borough has spent several months doing preliminary subsurface and utility investigation work to eliminate any surprises with the project and identify where all other utility lines exist.

Design and planning has also wrapped up for the project. This project includes the 1.1-mile water line and 274 new laterals, connecting from the line to the property owner’s lateral.

Ten new fire hydrants, 96 new water valves and 27 key connection points (mostly at intersections) will also be installed.

“PennDOT just paved Fayette Street, and now they are going to be moving out to Morris Street,” Plasterer said. “The borough got quite a few phone calls, I got emails over the weekend on people not happy. That’s just a paving job. This is a water line replacement. Try to bear with us, and we are going to do our best and be efficient in what we do.”

Ted Wiser, owner of the Lollipop Shop, asked about the timeline regarding the installation of a new lateral at a property, and Hammaker said it could be anything from a few days to five days to a week to address the lateral.

Resident Dave Linn asked if the sidewalks were being dug up as part of the project, and Pomeroy said sidewalks are expected to remain open, except in some cases where they may have to dig them up to make the lateral replacements.

For questions or more information, call the borough office at: (717) 532-2147.

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