By Marit Gookin, Staff Writer
“I wish I could say we’re done with paving, but hopefully tomorrow,” Lander Public Works Director Lance Hopkin told the city council on Tuesday. One section of one street, however, will remain unpaved throughout the winter: the 300 block of Popo Agie.
“Popo Agie, where we did the water line project, [is] a little bit behind on getting subcontractors in – they’re trying to finish things up as well – [and] had issues with asphalt plants. So we’re not going to pave that street,” Hopkin reported. The sewer line still needs to be replaced, and according to city of Lander Community Development Coordinator Anne Even, the road will be paved after the line is replaced – in 2024. “It’s going to be staying in road base through the winter.” Hopkin said.
Hopkin and the City of Lander have been working on roads since before summer even began; after a cold, icy winter, many Lander streets were left riddled with potholes. Additionally, in order to work on the water and sewer lines – also damaged by last winter’s extreme cold – sections of road had to be torn up to reach the pipes beneath the pavement. Second Street on either side of Main Street was a highly visible example of this work for several weeks; various residential streets also saw cones marking out work zones and/or temporary closures as the city scrambled to address the winter’s damage. Due to delays, some related to the shortage of parts and materials that have plagued many industries in recent years, some of these projects are taking longer to finish than anticipated.
These projects didn’t come without a price tag. “Asphalt costs alone … just coming back on Second Street, on Cliff Street, and our City Park, I mean that invoice is $175,000,” Hopkin explained. “We’re looking, you know, by the time we get done with three blocks that we were able to do and the water line replacement, easy over half a million dollars. So just kind of an eye-opener as far as what infrastructure costs, even trying to do it in-house and doing as much of the work as possible. It adds up in a hurry.”
The city of Lander has spent significant sums of money on its infrastructure over the past year; over the winter, it also had to invest in trying to repair frozen and damaged water lines when it could. According to Hopkin, every time the city has to put a leak block on a pipe for a small leak, it has to spend $5,000 to $10,000. Larger repairs can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and may require the assistance of a contractor. Some of Lander’s water lines are 50-100 years old, meaning that in many cases it isn’t just a case of repairing a leaking pipe but replacing it with modern PVC – and, as many Lander residents experienced last winter, some of Lander’s water lines are not buried deep enough to weather a winter such as last year’s, meaning the city needs to rebury them in order to prevent freezing in the future.
In February, the city will be taking the next steps in terms of its $45 million loan application to the State Loan and Investment Board, which it plans to put toward its 20-year Water Master Plan. The plan outlines several projects intended to repair, update, and improve the city’s water infrastructure in particular; as many Lander residents have experienced this year, working on water and sewer lines can also mean working on roads. According to City Treasurer Charri Lara, applying for the loan as a single large amount, to fund several projects, will net the city a lower interest rate. The city also hopes to get debt forgiveness on the loan.
“We’re hopeful in February when we go for the $45 million, and find a way to … reduce our interests there and whatever we can do to get forgiveness, that we can get as much done in the town as we possibly can,” Hopkin commented.
Half a million dollars down the road, however, one Lander block is still unpaved going into another Wyoming winter. Hopkin said that the city will be sending letters to the impacted homeowners, and that there will still be work done on the area to get it ready for the winter.
“We’re hoping to get some things done as far as surfacing, but with the low traffic in that area, that will be a good base for the winter and we’ll be able to take care of it,” he explained. “Just didn’t quite get where we wanted to be for the end of the year; but we’ll get there … Your dollars just don’t go as far as they used to.”