Kirk Bouchie, general manager of Vincennes Water Utilities, on Wednesday updated members of the Utilities Service Board on efforts to improve a neighborhood prone to flooding.

City engineer John Sprague announced last week that the city was including in its next application for state Community Crossings Matching Grant funds enough money to repave Forbes Road in the neighborhood near Benjamin Franklin Elementary School. The project would also include upgrading storm water drainage there as the street often floods during heavy rains.

But the overall plan, Bouchie said, is actually much larger.

It's an area, he said, the utility has been eyeing since late last year. It was exacerbated, he noted, in early February when the city saw a record rain event — 4 inches fell in as many hours.

Residents of the area later went before city council members pleading for help with flooding.

After that rain event, the utility hired RQAW, a Carmel-based engineering firm, to begin conducting a feasibility study of Forbes Road as well as three others — Ridgeway Avenue, Margaret Drive and McKinley Avenue — that feed into it and are also prone to flash flooding.

If the city were to take on all four projects, Bouchie said, the cost would be well over $1 million; the cost of doing Forbes Road alone is likely to be upwards of $600,000. 

A successful CCMG application, however, would take care of half that cost.

“So, obviously, we're going to have to take a phased approach,” he said.

The goal, should the city be successful in this next CCMG application, would be to begin with the larger Forbes Road portion of the overall project, the “main trunk line,” Bouchie said. 

Once that's done, the USB could then use funds generated by the city's storm water utility fee — about $600,000 per year — to hack away at the other three feeder roads.

“Our goal would be to go back, as funds allow, and pick those up in future years,” he said. “But just doing Forbes Road alone should help to drain that whole area more quickly.”

The city's latest application for CCMG funds — a program that has allowed for millions of dollars in paving over the last four years — is due on Aug. 2. Officials hope to know whether they've been successful this fall. 

If they are, work would likely take place in the spring of 2020, Bouchie said.

Bouchie also reported that a project to rehabilitate the city's four water towers is progressing. The Emison Avenue water tower near the National Guard Armory was recently finished and has a new paint job featuring the phrase “Indiana's Oldest City.”

“It looks really good,” he said. “But, obviously, we didn't just do this to put a new paint job on the outside. The whole inside was rehabbed, cleaned and resealed, too.”

Crews are waiting on the installation of a final valve, Bouchie said, then it will be filled and put back on line. 

The restoration of the water tower at Fox Ridge — which now bears the "Fox Ridge" name — was completed in May; a tower at Vincennes University was done before that. 

Crews will begin on the fourth and final tank, the Hillcrest tank, later this month, Bouchie said.

The USB voted last year to hire Atlanta-based Utility Service Company Inc. to redo all four at a total cost of just under $2 million.

Many of them hadn't seen any updates or repairs in as many as 20 years.

So the USB also entered into a maintenance contract for the water towers that would extend over the next 20 years, starting at just under $140,000 per year and increasing incrementally, topping out at $260,000 at the end of the 20-year period.

That contract, however, can be canceled anytime.

To pay for the water tower rehabs, the USB is using revenue generated by a 50-percent rate increase approved by city council members in 2016.

Bouchie also reported that crews at the waste water treatment plant on River Road continue to battle heavy flow caused by a record rainfall year.

Portions of southwestern Indiana have already seen as many as 40 inches of rain.

“Flows through the waste water treatment plant continue to be at a record level with the rain we've had,” Bouchie said. “It's been the wettest year on record nationally, and that's true locally as well, I'm sure. 

“It's certainly been the wettest we've had since we began tracking when the new plant was built in 2002.”

Bouchie also said the Wabash River at the Lincoln Memorial Bridge this week finally dropped back below the 10-foot mark, which means they can deactivate all of the city's pump stations.

“And that's been a rare occurrence this year,” he said.

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