Work to dredge ditch begins

Seymour Water Pollution Control has begun to dredge the Von Fange Ditch to ease flooding on the west side of the city after periods of heavy rain.

The project will not completely fix the problems caused by an aging and overburdened infrastructure and an inefficient stormwater collection system, officials said.

“But it will help,” said Justin Amos, a stormwater system foreman with the Seymour Water Pollution Control Facility.

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On Tuesday morning, city workers, with the help of a rented excavator, began dredging the portion of the ditch between the CSX Railroad and West Second Street.

Randy Hamilton, superintendent of the Seymour Water Pollution Control Facility, said when the work is complete, the ditch will be another two feet deeper from Sixth Street to a point just south of Tipton Street.

While the ditch itself is not being widened, the bottom of it is being dredged to make it wider to increase the capacity of the ditch to carry more water, Hamilton said.

Over the course of time, silt and debris have added as much as a couple of feet or even more in places.

The part of the project between the railroad and West Second Street should be finished this week, Hamilton said.

Flaggers will be stopping traffic for trucks entering and exiting the worksite, and signage has been placed outside of the work zone to notify the public using West Second Street and Community Drive near the high school.

With the start of school today, allowances will be made for school traffic from 8 to 9 a.m. and from 3 to 4 p.m, Hamilton said. No trucks will enter or exit the worksite during these times.

“We will pull everything back during those times,” he said.

Work will continue after 4 p.m. in an effort to get the current part of the project completed so the excavator can be returned.

City workers will then move north of West Second Street to complete dredging operations between there and Sixth Street.

“We’re looking at a total of about 27 days to do everything,” Hamilton said.

Over the past week or so, city workers cleared two concrete box culverts on the south side of Tipton Street as part of the project with a high-pressure water system, Amos said.

“We took out 11 truckloads (of silt),” he said.

The Indiana Department of Transportation plans to come in the next week or so and clean the culverts that run beneath Tipton Street (U.S. 50), he said.

The silt and other debris are being hauled to city-owned property off Yankee Road on the southwestern corner of Freeman Field, Hamilton said.

The city also is going to have to use the high-pressure water system to clear the culverts beneath West Second Street and Community Drive, which are full, he said.

“That is going to be an arduous task,” Hamilton said.

The city continues to pursue a federal Community Development Block Grant through the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs’ Stormwater Improvements Program to help pay for a portion of a project to enclose the ditch from West Second Street to Sixth Street and make other improvements to ease flooding.

A study recently completed by Wessler Engineering shows the proposed improvements will cost just more than $5 million. The grant would not pay for all of the costs of the proposed improvements, so the city would have to issue bonds, Hamilton said.

The current work is basically just preparing for the day the city receives that grant, he said.

The Von Fange Ditch receives a lot of water from storm sewer pipes from the east, which includes the boulevards and the downtown areas. The intake pipes from those storm sewer lines also are going to be reworked.

“And even if we can’t move forward on it like we would like to, this project is going to help out tremendously,” Hamilton said.