Sewer repair grant sought

A massive project that would replace a system of drainage pipes throughout downtown Franklin would significantly help with flooding, but first the city needs to find the money to pay for it.

Pipes that are supposed to move water through downtown Franklin have deteriorated and are filled with sediment, tree limbs, rocks and debris, making rainwater travel slowly to Youngs Creek. But if the city is awarded a grant through the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs in December, the plan is to fix that.

That would mean no more intersections filling with water, officials said. With about a quarter of the cost of the project covered through grant money, the city could start replacing or upgrading nearly a mile’s worth of drainage pipe that snakes under Cincinnati, Kentucky, Adams and Madison streets and Johnson Avenue.

Upgrading the Roaring Run pipeline could cost about $5.5 million, according to estimates in the city’s stormwater sewer master plan, which was finished in February. That plan includes more than $43 million in projects to reconstruct bridges, repair eroded streambanks and improve drainage throughout the city, which would also reduce the amount of flooding in parks.

Although the Roaring Run stormwater sewer is one of the more costly projects, it is near the top of the board of public works’ list to improve the quality of life of downtown residents, city council member Steve Barnett said. It could take more than two years to finish upgrades and improvements to the 4,800-foot pipeline.

“This grant will give us a really good head start,” Barnett said.

The city would put $252,800 from stormwater funds, which are collected from stormwater utility fees, toward the $1 million grant if awarded. Then the city could spend more than $1.2 million installing manholes, cleaning the pipeline and installing a new lining in the existing pipe. That work would repair the existing pipeline, allowing water to flow faster and reduce flooding.

City officials don’t know how they would pay for the rest of the $5.5 million project. The master plan includes two more projects to improve Roaring Run at a total cost of about $2 million. The additional projects include installing more pipes to divert water from Hurricane Creek so it flows faster and revamping eroded streambanks for aesthetic purposes.

The drainage pipeline was installed in the 1970s and has not been properly maintained, Barnett said. The pipes are filled about 30 to 40 percent with debris, which causes the water to not move as fast, causing the intersections to flood and residents’ yards to have standing water, he said.

To improve the flow of water from downtown to Youngs Creek, the city would need to either replace deteriorated portions of the pipe or reline the pipe so it can work more efficiently, Barnett said.

But city officials don’t know the exact state of the pipeline. When the pipeline was constructed, only five manholes were put in. In areas without manholes, officials can’t see how the structure is holding up, Barnett said. That’s why city officials want to double the number of manholes in the pipeline — one for every 500 feet, Barnett said.

The work would start on the south end of the pipeline, where the stormwater sewer drain flows out to Youngs Creek, Barnett said. Residents could expect short road closures instead of closing a street long-term, like with the Main Street construction, he said. For example, an intersection could be closed for two weeks or less while installing a manhole or inserting a lining into the pipe, he said.