Dozens of anxious business-owners and residents of downtown Rosendale had their worries about this spring’s water main replacement project at least partially allayed at a public information session that preceded the April 6 Rosendale Town Board meeting at the Rondout Municipal Center. Jason Ballard of Barton & Loguidice, DPC, the engineering firm handling the town’s massive water infrastructure renovation, and lead contractor Charlie Merritt of Merritt Construction reassured Main Streeters that disruption of their lives and livelihoods would be kept to a minimum.
According to Ballard, the actual groundbreaking date for the project — originally slated for sometime in April — was slightly delayed due to the decision to begin with the replacement of a failed water line underneath the Keator Avenue Bridge. This required the town to obtain approval from the New York State agency funding the water project, amend its State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) to reflect the new component, then submit the amended plan to the Ulster County Planning Board for additional review, while Barton & Loguidice had to do additional design work for the bridge line. “Hopefully it’ll start in the first part of May,” Ballard said. The Rosendale Town Board approved the amended SEQR with a Negative Declaration that same evening.
Rosendale town supervisor Jeanne Walsh noted that the Main Street water main replacement, not including the bridge component, was scheduled to take 120 days, but could vary in length depending on what contractors find in the roadbed once they actually breach the pavement. “They won’t know right away. Once they open it up, they’re going to have to evaluate it.” Solid rock would require more time with jackhammers, she said; “If it’s dirt, it won’t take as long.” Water and Sewer Department superintendent Terry Johnson added that he anticipated that old lead pipes would likely be found under the street and need to be disposed of as well.
Merritt admitted that the noise level during the drilling phase would be “pretty loud,” but said that excavation was projected to progress at an average of 150 feet per day. “There will be one or two days when the main goes through that it’ll be right in front of your business,” he said. “Four or five weeks later, we’ll be coming back and putting in the service,” referring to the hookups from the new water main to each building. The work will proceed between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m., on weekdays only.
Ballard explained that installation of the new water main will be accomplished in sections, each one valved off and made operational before moving onto the next segment. Once each section of pipe has been disinfected, pressure-tested and approved by the Department of Health, the contractors will fill in the excavation and repave that portion of Main Street, so that the entire length of the busy thoroughfare will not be torn up at any one time. Temporary water lines will be installed to supply municipal water to buildings along the torn-up section of the route until the service lines can be installed several weeks later. Ballard estimated that no building will be entirely without water for more than half a day. “That’s a lot less time than if we have a break” in the 100+-year-old water main, Walsh observed.
Disruption to automobile and pedestrian traffic was also a matter of great concern to Main Streeters. Rosendale Theatre managing director Ann Citron asked whether and how access to the parking lot behind the Theatre would be preserved, since one of the two entrances — the alley between the Big Cheese and the Belltower Venue — is one-way only. “The aim will be to not have both access roads closed at the same time,” said Ballard. Supervisor Walsh suggested that temporary directional signs could be put up to make the alleyway two-way while Hardenburgh Lane is under excavation.
Yuval Sterer, co-owner with his wife Lisa of the Big Cheese, was worried that the large trucks that supply their shop would not be able to make U-turns when sections of Main Street are impassable. “We’ll make sure you get deliveries,” Merritt said, suggesting that they be scheduled for very early mornings or evenings. “It’ll be business as usual after 5 p.m. and on weekends.” The excavation plan includes the use of steel plates spanning trenches in the road during hours when the work is not proceeding, so that Main Street will never need to be closed off to traffic 24/7.
Sterer also expressed concern about pedestrian access, noting that much of his business depends on walk-ins. “We do count on our neighbors walking through,” he noted. Ballard said that the project was “not a sidewalk job,” and that pedestrians might need to cross over the street, but would never have sidewalks blocked on both sides of the same section of street simultaneously. Walsh added that some sidewalk improvements would be made in the course of the project, including enhanced curb cuts at crosswalks for better Americans with Disabilities Act compliance.
A representative from the Rosendale Fire Department raised the issue of access to the Main Street firehouse, suggesting that it might be necessary on certain days to relocate its firetrucks during daytime hours. Walsh suggested a department meeting to “come up with a plan,” which might also incorporate mutual aid arrangements with fire companies in neighboring communities. The firefighter asked about the maximum distance between operational fire hydrants on Main Street during the construction period; “There might be 1,000 feet out of service” at any one time, said Merritt. “We have 4,000 feet of five-inch hose,” said the firefighter, noting that parking should be prohibited during the project at the spring at the western end of Main Street, which serves as an alternative pumping source.
While the consensus seemed to be that Main Streeters should be able to see when the excavation is about to reach the front of their building, Mourka Meyendorff requested that official notices, such as doorknob tags, be placed to give residents ample warning to relocate their cars and the like. “The key word is communication,” she said.