City officials were planning to install a new sewer line connecting the North Jackson Street sewage lift station -- located just south of the railroad overpass, or viaduct on U.S. 231 -- to the sewer plant on West Columbia Street by way of the former Pennsylvania Central Railroad corridor that is abandoned.
The section of the corridor that is in question runs in a southwesterly direction from Madison Street on the east to Rockville Road on the west, continuing southwest to connect with Columbia Street near the sewer plant.
The entire corridor, which runs across Indiana and other states, has been caught in a quagmire of lawsuits in recent years as adjacent land owners and railroad officials have bickered back and forth over the ownership of the right-of-way.
Locally, the abandoned right-of-way appears to be caught in a real quagmire of stagnant water and overgrown brush that lends a swamp-like quality to the land, according to neighbor Phil O'Neal whose property adjoins the right-of-way on Rockville Road.
He says the area has been flooded since last fall and during heavy rains, the water actually runs over the street. He said he is concerned because children have been seen playing in the water and cars must drive through it.
Also, he says he is unable to mow part of his yard because it stands full of water and he is concerned about mosquitos in the summertime.
O'Neal says he has complained to the city several times, but to no avail.
"They say they're working on it," he said.
City Attorney Laurie Robertson-Hardwick said she too is concerned that water is running across the roadway.
"We will be investigating that," she said.
In the meantime, work on the new sewer line can move forward with city officials deciding to avoid the railroad right-of-way altogether.
Hardwick told Board of Works members Sue Murray, Thom Morris and Mayor Nancy Michael last week that she felt it was best to abandon the railroad idea and use existing right-of-way along city streets.
"This will expedite the whole project considerably," she said.
The new route, which the board decided on last week, is as follows: begin at Jackson Street and head west on Depot Street to Madison St.; south on Madison St. to Elizabeth Street; west on Elizabeth Street to Rockville Road; south on Rockville Road to where it turns into Jacob Street.
At the intersection of Jacob Street and Rockville Road, the line will cut across a piece of property and connect to the south with the sewer plant on Columbia Street.
Mayor Michael said she hopes the city can move forward with the sewer project now that the problem with the railroad is out of the way.
"We just didn't realize we'd run into so many problems with the railroad," she said.
On Wednesday, the board heard from an engineer with the project who said that the new route will have to be surveyed, potentially in the next couple of weeks and will cost an additional $26,000.
The board voted unanimously to spend the additional money needed to pay for the surveying and engineering costs, bringing the total project cost to about $92,000.
The project may be ready to go out for bids in June with construction to follow soon after that. Officials estimate they will need a 15-foot maximum easement for the new line.