Lincolnshire public works presents plan to maintain infrastructure
Lincolnshire is trying to find ways to pay a long list of capital projects, including major road repairs. Public work employees Roland Bibat (left) and Frankie Martin repair potholes in the corporate park. | Joe Cyganowski-For Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 13, 2013 2:11AM
LINCOLNSHIRE — The dirt in your front yard is eating the pipes under your house. The problem gets worse: Once your dirt eats a hole into your pipe, it isn’t going to eat the greaseballs that are building up from what you wash down those pipes.
Public works infrastructure may not be as boring as many believe — but it may be more expensive than most imagine. In Lincolnshire, public works officials have prepared a long list, divided into four categories, of age-related needs that Village Hall will need to find a way to address soon.
“We’re moving from the phase where we had the new house, with the infrastructure, to the phase where we need to look at how we’re going to maintain it,” Public Works Director Jennifer Hughes said. “Don’t get lost in the details.”
Hughes and Rob Horne, engineering supervisor, are sharing those details with the Village Board, and waiting to see what kind of funding they will get back for the solutions. They brought forth a five-year agenda for capital improvements in four of Lincolnshire’s vital systems: sanitary sewers, water mains, village-owned roads and storm sewers.
At a Village Board meeting, Horne and Hughes showed the trustees some of the hassles, and expenses, that come with owning a city that is beginning to show its first signs of age.
“I think we all knew this was coming,” trustee Liz Brandt said.
“That’s why we’ve been saving all these years,” trustee David Saltiel followed.
The board listened, but a course of action is at least weeks off. In the meantime, Horne and Hughes said the time to start digging is approaching, because state funding is dwindling.
• Roads: Lincolnshire maintains 40 miles of streets — 12 of which were built in the 1960s, 9.5 in the ‘70s. Horne said he expected a 17 percent drop in state funding for road repair in the near future.
“Based on what I’ve heard from other communities, this is an excellent road system,” and Horne said Lincolnshire drivers were going to continue to expect excellence, even as the asphalt and rock foundations under them wear down.
Regarding underground pipes, Lincolnshire’s dirt is highly acidic, and it eats holes into pipes. Horne said corrosion has begun to cause water main breaks, and the village now requires all new pipes to be lined with a wrapping that slows the hungry horticulture.
But inside the sanitary sewer pipes, there is another problem building up: build-up. With decades of use, some of the tubes that take Lincolnshire’s wastewater away are filling up with “greaseballs” of household cleaning agents, cooking grease and all kinds of other gunk.
Horne described the mess as looking and feeling like tofu — but it can cut a sewer’s capacity in half, and there is no way of telling exactly where it is. Unless, of course, someone digs in and drops what is essentially a remote-controlled car with a light and a camera to show crews what is in the otherwise dark pipes.
“We can clean half the village in a year,” Horne said,” but that’s going to cost a lot of money.”
Hughes said modern technology is making it easier to find the portions of a road that need the most work and the portions of pipe that are the most endangered — but the need to dig and save the infrastructure from the threats atop, around and within it will never go away.
“We’re looking at the skin and saying ‘OK, your skin looks great, you must be healthy,” she said. “We’re trying to take a more scientific approach to this whole project.”