The first of a three-phase effort to improve Main Street is nearing completion, and members of the Redevelopment Commission, the group footing the bill, are wanting the finished product to look as good as possible.

But two concrete manhole structures are getting in the way.

City engineer John Sprague said as the project draws to a close and crews look to put on the finishing touches, there are two concrete manhole structures — one on either side of U.S. 41 — that contain the intersection of very large storm water drainage pipes that work to better remove water from an area once prone to flooding.

Sprague told RDC members he hadn't expected them to be so visible; they'll stick out of the ground as much as 3 feet — or about waist-high, he said — and since they'll be adjacent to the sidewalks, very noticeable to passers-by.

“Part of that (concrete) box will remain exposed,” Sprague said, gesturing to a picture displayed on an overhead TV, “and I think it will be unsightly.”

So he sought help from a local mason to get prices for putting on three sides of the manhole structures a faux brick facade. Sprague likened it to a “lick 'em and stick 'em” type of facade that could be easily attached to give the structures a more aesthetically-pleasing look.

The end result, he said, would look much like the large brick flower boxes at the corner of Second and Main streets downtown.

The total cost of $10,300, however, had RDC members taking a step back.

“I can understand why you'd want to do this,” said RDC president Brad Dale as he looked at pictures of the concrete manhole structures, to which other members nodded in agreement. “We've put a lot of money into that street, and I think we'd like it to look nice all the way through.

“But perhaps we should think about it,” he said, to which other RDC members agreed. “We can drive by, take a peak maybe.”

Ultimately, RDC members seemed in favor of the last-minute change, but agreed to come back to it next month.

Other than that minor hiccup, Sprague said the project is moving along well. All of the asphalt is down, he said, minus the final layer.

The sidewalks still need to be poured and lighting and signage installed, but Sprague is making plans to open the road per an earlier agreement to have it back open to at least some traffic before school begins again for the Vincennes Community School Corp. on Aug. 8.

“Exactly what 'open' means, we're still in the process of figuring out,” Sprague told the RDC. “Are we going to take the (road closed) signs down? Probably not. But are we going to get those buses through? Absolutely.

“Actually, we're having trouble keeping people off of it right now,” he said.

The job, he said, is about 70 percent complete, and final completion is expected sometime in late September.

And other than some additional asphalt costs to the tune of just over $6,700, Sprague also said there have been few cost overruns so far.

Kerns Excavating of Bicknell is the contractor on the project.

Phase I includes the area of Main Street from 22nd Street out to Jamestown Apartments. Work includes the addition of a left-hand turn lane onto Kimmell Road — the soon-to-be site of a major retail development — and improved storm-water drainage between Mantle Ditch and the U.S. 41 overpass, an area that is prone to flooding.

It also calls for two, 12-foot driving lanes with additional sidewalks, bike lanes and lighting. And the street will become three lanes from the U.S. 41 overpass to Jamestown Apartments.

The RDC sold $5 million in bonds to pay for it.

Main Street Phase II will pick up at Jamestown Apartments and head out to Sievers Road; city officials received a federal grant to help pay for 80 percent of the estimated $4 million cost.

That money will be released in summer of 2021.

Sprague hopes to pursue Phase III, which would then take the project out to George Rogers Clark Middle School at Richard Bauer Drive, at the same time, or 2022.

Both of those projects are currently in the design phase, and the RDC is expected to pay for 100 percent of Phase III.

The RDC will next meet at 9 a.m. on Aug. 15 at City Hall, 201 Vigo St.

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