City manager talks roads, water, parks

·6 min read

Sep. 2—Thursday marked two months on the job for new McAlester City Manager Dave Andren — who said his initial priorities include upgrading city streets.

Andren said progress has been made in his first two months as the city gets caught up on street repairs.

"We've unleashed our street maintenance guys," he said.

But that doesn't mean the entirety of city streets are being replaced.

"We can't replace entire streets — we just can't," Andren said, referring to the costs. Instead, city crews are doing panel replacements or repairs at some of the city's most troublesome spots.

However, there are some exceptions.

"We're looking at replacing Tanglewood," Andren said, referring to Tanglewood Drive, one of the roads near the new Shops at McAlester shopping center. It's already in the budget, he noted.

City councilors accepted a $483,887.25 bid in August from Robinson Construction and authorized the mayor to sign the notice of award for the Tanglewood Drive Improvements Project.

The project is to rebuild Tanglewood Drive from Fourteenth Street to Peaceable Road at a cost of $483,887.25. It includes traffic control, a two-year maintenance bond, removal of pavement, installation of Type A aggregate and super-paving the driving surface.

Plans are also underway to redo "B" Street from Choctaw Avenue north to Carl Albert Parkway, which covers approximately a city block. "It's about 320 feet," Andren said.

"We're in the planning phase right now," he said. The project entails more than redoing the city street; it also includes the city utilities underneath it.

"We want to get what's underground as well, the water lines and sewer lines," Andren said. Since the street is going to be torn up anyway for the new construction, it's an opportune time to replace city utilities, which includes new piping, the city manager said.

"It makes sense to do the full replacement," Andren said, adding that all of that is determined on passing through the city council.

If the council approves the project, Andren said the city can do the work on the B Street project without having to put it out to bid for a contractor. "We have the tools, the engineer, the skills and the knowledge," Andren said. He hopes to replace the section of street with concrete.

"I prefer concrete because it lasts longer," Andren said. "Concrete should last you 50 years. With asphalt you get 10 years at the most." Andren said his hope is to get the project started and completed within the city's current fiscal year, which ends on June 30, 2023.

The city's Utility Maintenance Department and crews are also working hard, Andren said.

Some of the city's waterline replacement or repair projects have been delayed at times over the past week due to supply side shortages — not of waterlines or piping, but because of valves installed to control the water flow. That enables city crews to turn the water on and off when needed, in case of water line breaks, for example.

"They've been holding off on some projects until we can get the valves," said Andren. "They're in short supply." That's because of the mechanics involved in manufacturing valves with working parts, when pipe can be manufactured more quickly by molding it, he noted.

At the same time, the city has been working to keep up with water line breaks.

"We've been struggling with water line breaks on Main Street," Andren said. "These are old pipes." When workers open and close the pipes, such as to halt the water flow through lines that are being repaired or replaced, the hammering and vibrations can cause water line breaks elsewhere in the lines. That doesn't mean the breaks are immediately apparent.

"It can take up to a week for that water line break to push up," Andren said.

Andren is also fully supportive of the work being done to upgrade the city's parks and adding to the city's trails system. Representatives from the city of McAlester and the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust also known as TSET, met this week. Andren said. TSET is committed to awarding the city matching grants for the final three phases of the Strong Boulevard Sidewalk Project.

The four-phase project calls for construction of a sidewalk which meets the Americans with Disabilities Act Standards extending along N. Strong Boulevard from Electric Avenue north to Washington Avenue.

McAlester city councilors approved Phase I of the Strong Boulevard sidewalk project in May, covering construction of the sidewalk from E. Electric Avenue heading south to Pierce Avenue at a cost of $103,925.

Other phases of the four-tiered project will be bid separately.

"We're about to start Phase II," Andren said.

Phase II extends the sidewalk from Pierce Avenue to Polk Avenue at a cost of $152,215. It's to be paid for with a 50% matching grant from the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust, with the city of McAlester again providing the 50% match. The city has already paid for its part of the project, said McAlester Grant Writer Stephanie Giacomo.

Phase II should add from 900 to 1,000 additional feet of sidewalk to the portion already covered by Phase I, said Engineer Robert Vaughan, of Infrastructure Solutions Group, which is working with the city on the project,

Phase III continues extension of the sidewalk south from Polk Avenue to College Avenue for a cost of $209,615, also with a 50% matching TSET grant, which includes design and construction.

Phase IV, which is the final phase, continues the new sidewalk's route from College Avenue to the project's end at Washington Avenue, at a cost of $119,815, also with a 50% matching TSET grant.

It's expected to take two years to complete the project, with completion projected in 2024.

Progress is continuing with plans for the city's trails systems, with the Waterways Trail and Parker Trail on the list.

"The trails are coming along," Andren said.

Improvements are continuing on the city's parks system, the city manager said,

"We're still in the planning process for Mullen Park," Andren said, referring to the 12.7 acre park at A Street and W. Springer Avenue. "It's our next target and we're in the planning mode for that."

Another project the city is looking into is going to LED lighting inside all of the city-owned buildings. "We're trying to get a grant through the Department of Commerce," said Andren.

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.