April 12, 2008

SNL gets another joke from us...

Saturday Night Live took notice of the Racine area again this week.

Unlike the last time, when the city's name actually was mentioned, this week it was just a joke about something that happened here a few days ago. I'm not aware of any SNL cast members coming from here, although head writer Seth Meyers got his comedic start doing improv while a student at Northwestern.

Seth's joke, delivered during the Weekend News Update:
"Police in Wisconsin are searching for three men who stole $24,000 worth of Miller beer... $24,000 worth of Miller? Did they steal all of it?"
You had to be there.

As for that missing truckload of beer, swiped last Monday from Mount Pleasant: so far no sign of it. Somebody's having one heckuva party.

Woman hit by car at Washington and Taylor avenues

There was a serious accident at Taylor and Washington avenues this morning. Here's the police report:

Subject: Near Fatal Car vs. Pedestrian Accident

At approximately 1:46AM this morning, a pedestrian crossing the roadway on
Washington Av at the intersection with Taylor Av was struck by a pickup truck. The
pedestrian has been identified as Chevetta M Knighten (32 years old) of Racine.
According to investigators and witnesses, the operator of an eastbound GMC S10 pickup
truck was in the right hand lane when he observed the vehicle in the center lane slightly ahead of him, slow down. The operator of the GMC has been identified as Clayton R Fliess (25 years old) of Racine.

Fliess presumed that the other vehicle to his left was slowing to turn into the apartment building parking lot driveway access located right at the intersection. He believed this was the case because both he and the other eastbound vehicle had the right of way due to the green light at the intersection.

As Fliess approached parallel to the stopped vehicle to his left, Knighten appeared in front of his vehicle, but he was unable to stop before striking her. As a result of the impact, Knighten was thrown onto the hood of the pickup truck and then rolled off to the ground at the drivers’ side.

She was transported to Wheaton Fransiscan St Mary’s for initial treatment and then to
Froedert Hospital by ambulance. At this time, Knighten is suffering from internal
injuries as well as a possible broken pelvis.

It was apparent from the investigation that Knighten had entered the roadway in the
crosswalk against the “Don’t Walk” signal of the traffic light. The investigation is
continuing and no citations have been issued to Fliess or Knighten at this time.

April 11, 2008

A Racine poetry magazine to read in The Bathroom

Cover illustration by Sonya Ferdinand

Samir Husni, the academic world's "Dr. Magazine," who keeps track of this sort of thing, recently reported the birth of 715 magazines during the past year.

Well, now there are 716. Welcome, please, The Bathroom ("A Good Place to Read"), a new poetry magazine published by Racinian Nicholas Michael Ravnikar.

A couple of caveats up front: This is not the poetry of Robert Frost. Nor is it a magazine like, say, George Plimpton's Paris Review, that you actually could carry into the bathroom.

This is the '00s, after all: we're already well into Web 2.0 and the paradigm has shifted. Still, The Bathroom has all the attributes you'd expect in a poetry magazine these days: free verse, (what, rhyme is a dirty word?), no payment for contributors, no ads. There's no actual physical magazine either: The Bathroom is an internet-only publication, so unless you carry your laptop everywhere, or print out its 13-page .pdf, you'll have to read it elsewhere.

Its editor is a 2006 UW-Parkside grad now in his final online semester for a MFA in creative writing at Naropa University's Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics (that's its real name according to Wikipedia, which lists Naropa U. as "a private, liberal arts university in Boulder, Colorado, founded in 1974, one of the few major accredited Buddhist-inspired universities in North America." Go to Wiki yourself to learn how Kerouac got his name on the door.) Ravnikar writes in the first issue of The Bathroom:
"The Bathroom is edited by Nicholas Michael Ravnikar from the comfort of his apartment/office in Racine, WI.... It should be safe to say that The Bathroom will be the last incarnation of Ravnikar’s troublesome aspirations to publish writing that amuses him.

"Frequency of The Bathroom will depend on the volume and urgency of submissions I receive. It will take me a long time to get back to you unless (a) I communicate with you on a regular basis, (b) you harass me via email, or (c) you’re one of them famous poet-types and I really want to get on your good side."
Judging by the contents of this first issue of his e-magazine --a dozen poems (none from my era of Poetry Appreciation 101) -- this editor and I amuse ourselves differently. Still, I was young once and was as upset by incestuous platonics as contributor David Arenas is in his poem, "PLUST."

And what can one add to this verse from Adam Coben's, "ARTAUD’S DUMMY":

Note also the format: I asked Ravnikar why the poems looked as though they were pecked out on an old Royal, after a night of drinking, and he said: "I wanted the magazine to pay homage to the old mimeo press magazines of the '60s and '70s, and the off-centered typeface was definitely part of that. Most of the writers I really admire came out of that culture of mimeo mags, and I really think that the blog or Web 2.0 or Open Source revolution thing that's happening now is along those same lines. It's another way to get information and other junk into people's brains. but there's nothing great or all-mighty about it, other than it might save on some paper."

I posed a few questions to Ravnikar via email, and he answered them all (and many others). Here are his answers to what could have been our Q and A, if I'd asked all the right questions:

Q: Are you related to Carly-Anne Ravnikar, who recently ran for a seat on Racine Unified's board?
A: Yes, I am married to the wonderful Carly-Anne Ravnikar.

Q: Are you a published poet?
A: I've had some of my own poems published in different places: Logan Ryan Smith's now-defunct Small Town magazine, the Columbia Poetry Review, Kerri Sonnenberg's magazine Conundrum and a few other places. In 2005, Armand Capanna, who runs Detumescence Press out of San Francisco, was kind enough to publish an eBook of some poems of mine called Just Talkin' Shit. And I've had a poem selected by a new journal called FF>> that's being put out by some fellow Naropa grad students, for which I'll also be serving as graphic designer.

Q: What connections to the arts do you have in Racine?
A: I'm heading up an effort by local youth to put together a citywide talent show, called YESSS Presents: Ray-Scene from the Streets which RacinePost has already run a story on. (See HERE.) I also helped start the Film Seed program of the Arts council: a Saturday program in which local youth learn the basics of video production. We've done two films so far. Hotlines Magazine is another project I helped get started, with David M. Hanes (whose work appears in The Bathroom #1) and a cadre of committed youth. Hotlines is a magazine of creative writing and visual art by local teens and it comes out semi-monthly. Ramping up our advertising has been a slow process, and printing costs are just out of this world; that's part of the reason I put The Bathroom up online. I'm also working on a digital video documentary about the Racine Arts Council's Quilts on Barns project, with Mark Fornal.

Q: What are your goals?
A: Ah, goals. Well, I'm in it for the money. Seriously, I'm currently making ends barely meet by donating plasma; it's a good chance to read. Part of the problem with being an artist or a writer is that people expect you to be able to hold down a 9-5 or at least a part-time job. I can't tell you how many times I've heard my family say something along these lines: "You've just got to find a good job so you can make your art on the side." That's screwy. Maybe it's just me, but I'm disgusted by the concept of wage labor. I think it's absolutely dehumanizing, but I do it just like everybody else when I have to. I hope to go on to teach composition and maybe creative writing part-time at one of the fine local colleges that we have around here, while I keep working on my writing and turning out page after page of unsalable dreck.

Q: What caused you to start a magazine?
A: I started The Bathroom simply because I think literature is a pretty good thing -- actually, one of the few arguably great things that our species has done in its time on this planet. So, I wanted to be part of that conversation. I think of poetry and literature as a branch of the cognitive and social sciences -- of art as a part of those things rather than as a separate discipline. Too often I think people see the humanities as as "out there," off to the side of science and politics; but artists are pretty much in the trenches as much as anybody else.

Q: Is The Bathroom just for Racine poets?
A: The Bathroom is not a publication that I intend to have any particular local focus, outside the fact that all writers are local to somewhere. The reason it (proudly) displays Racine, WI, on the masthead is simply that I wanted to rep the city I live in. I'm not from here originally; I grew up in Kenosha, lived in Chicago a spell, but moved here after I started teaching a poetry workshop at the Racine Youthful Offender Correctional Facility last Spring. I'm certainly going to be including work of local writers who send me work that I think is good and, if I can use a contemporary cliche, "edgy." But I'm not limiting myself to exclusively publishing local writers. I think that's a project that the Wisconsin Arts Board should probably look at, though, and I know there's been some talk among local writers about getting something along those lines going.

Submissions to The Bathroom may be emailed to Ravnikar.

April 9, 2008

Our cigarettes will be 'fire-safe' -- feel better yet?

The nine most frightening words in the English language -- "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help. -- came unbidden to mind Wednesday when I read this press release from the governor's office:
Gov. Jim Doyle today signed legislation requiring cigarettes sold in Wisconsin to be fire-safe. State legislators, firefighters, public health officials, and representatives of the tobacco industry joined Governor Doyle at the Beloit Fire Station for the signing.

“I am pleased to sign a bill that increases public safety by regulating tobacco,” Gov. Doyle said. “This bill will ensure that smokers reduce the risk they pose to themselves and others.”

Assembly Bill 717 requires each company that sells cigarettes in Wisconsin to meet a fire safety performance standard
Fire-safe cigarettes, what's not to like?

Well, for starters, how many times have you heard of fires started by a cigarette? Yes, it happens: According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), a research group that provides data for state and federal fire codes -- according to an article in USA Today last year -- "cigarette fires have been the top cause of U.S. fire fatalities for decades, killing tens of thousands of people in the past 30 years." Deaths have declined with falling smoking rates but "cigarette fires still kill 700 to 900 people a year."

Got that? "Tens of thousands over 30 years." "900 a year!" That's the danger we and a number of other states have chosen to confront?

Meanwhile, cigarettes cause lung cancer, which kills more than 160,000 Americans every year. Also cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, larynx, bladder, kidney, cervix and pancreas. Cigarette smoke is the most common cause of emphysema. Toxins in the blood from smoking cigarettes contribute to the development of atherosclerosis and other cardio-vascular diseases. In all, cigarettes are blamed for the deaths of roughly 440,000 Americans every year, says the American Heart Association.

The European Union requires this warning on all cigarette packages: “Tobacco seriously damages health.” Australia's warning includes: "Smoking causes heart disease, Smoking when pregnant harms your baby, and your smoking can harm others.” Canada's warning says, "Cigarettes cause fatal lung disease, Cigarettes cause strokes and heart disease, Tobacco smoke causes fatal lung disease in non-smokers, Cigarettes are addictive, Tobacco use can make you impotent, Don’t poison us, Cigarettes cause mouth diseases.”

Notice how none of them mention that cigarettes can start fires? Must be an oversight.

Yet that's the danger the state of Wisconsin chose to address. Granted, on Jan. 1 the state's tax on cigarettes went up $1 a pack, to $1.77 -- as we play both sides of the cigarette debate: high taxes to discourage smokers while also adding to state coffers.

In the first few months of 2008, cigarette smoking in the state does appear to have dropped, and there were more calls to the Tobacco Quit line. In March Gov. Doyle, who last year pressed for an even higher cigarette tax increase and even for a statewide ban on smoking in all public places, noted:
"The intent of the cigarette tax was to help people quit smoking. In the first two months of this year, there were 20,000 calls to the Tobacco Quit Line (1-800-QUIT-NOW), far more than in the past.

Well, we didn't get a statewide smoking ban, but now our cigarettes will be fire-safe! Can't you just feel the good health washing over you?

YWCA sells its building: 'We've been reborn'

The YWCA building has been sold, to Racine osteopath Dr. Kenneth Kurt. (If that name sounds familiar, it might be because we noted the possibility on Dec. 22.)

The selling price was $500,000; the deal closed on Monday. Reports are that Dr. Kurt will call the building Kurt Sport Complex, and -- with its gym, pool and fitness center -- will offer such treatment as water therapy. (More on Dr. Kurt's plans HERE.)

"We've been reborn. It's a fresh start," said Julie Craig, YWCA board member and the CPA who's been most involved with the Y's financial issues. ("I only take this much abuse for free," she says cheerfully of her volunteer efforts.)

For the past two days, Craig has been catching up on the Y's overdue financial obligations, paying out about $160,000 to clear up bills -- including $28,000 for gas and electricity for just the past four months! at the distinctive brick building at 740 College Ave.

"Most people won't understand," Craig said, emphasizing that the Y is not rolling in money but has merely caught up thanks to the sale. When the YWCA closed the building in December, it was listed at $650,000. Selling was "hard to do in this market, and this type of building," Craig said.

The sale was a long time coming. It was first considered by the board in 1992. In 1998 the board actually voted to sell, but the membership sued to block the sale. "There were a lot of memories tied up in this building; many of our members learned to swim here, then their daughters..." Craig said. The sale motion eventually failed on a technicality.

In 2006, the Y took a different tack, leasing some of its space to others. But that didn't work out (they got stiffed).The board decided again in February 2007 to sell, but it took until December to put together meetings of its members and follow all the rules. At that time, the YWCA's CEO Debbie Embry was also let go.

Members helped clean out the building and lots of historic old photos and paperwork are in archival storage at Merchants Moving and Storage.

Now the Y is free to concentrate on its triad of programs: the River Bend Nature Center, the Empowering Women's Center and Youth Education. Craig noted proudly that 20 women were "suited" last week at the Y's new Empowering Women's Center across from St. Catherine's High School at 1220 Villa St., getting them ready for a job fair. (One of the women had a baby right after getting her new interview clothes.)

The Y has just hired Beverly Peterson as its new development director. She has 17 years' experience working for the Salvation Army, running Camp Wonderland, as an early childhood development director and also in job training -- all three legs that this Y wants to concentrate on.

Announcement of changes at River Bend is promised for April 30.

Two recounts underway at courthouse

Ken Lumpkin and Kaplan's attorney Michael Maistelman
watch as Rosanne Kuemmel and Joan Rennert examine ballot

UPDATES: Kaplan wins by one vote. Mount Pleasant recount won't be finished until Thursday.

ORIGINAL POST: What's the old quote about two things you never want to see being made: sausage and legislation?

Add recounts to that list.

Two recounts are underway at the Racine County Courthouse this morning -- one in a storage closet and the other in a more spacious meeting room.

Relegated to the storage closet are Ken Lumpkin and Jim Kaplan, fighting over Kaplan's two-vote margin in the contest for the Racine County Board seat in District 4.

In the meeting room was Ruth Gedwardt, trying to overcome a 41-vote deficit in her effort to win election to the Mount Pleasant Village Board. Gedwardt came in fourth in a three-seat race.

The Lumpkin/Kaplan recount was the more interesting affair, what with Kaplan's two lawyers monitoring every step County Clerk Joan Rennert and her assistants made in the claustrophobically confining space, crammed with 14 people. Atty. Michael Maistelman, fresh from a recount in Franklin yesterday, pointed out to Rennert that in Franklin "the table was much bigger and the clerk bought us pizza."

"In that case," Rennert replied, "you should buy today."

Instantly, all decided that would be inappropriate, so the nitty-gritty of counting ballots, examining absentee forms and zero-ing out the voting machine for testing went on.

Things were more refined in Gedwardt's recount, where clerks sat quietly around a big table -- at least four times larger than the one Rennert and her two assistants were using. Gedwart, too, had an attorney present.

The recounts were expected to last up to eight hours...

Jim Kaplan and his wife, Julie

Ruth Gedwardt and Atty. Joe Kremkoski

April 8, 2008

Curly fluffball loses fight with clippers ... it'll grow back!

This week's dog up for adoption at Countryside Humane Society is a tough one. Countryside has kindly sent us before and after pictures of Pierre, a one-year-old Bichon Frise, Poodle and possibly Lhasa Apso mix.

I cannot tell a lie: I prefer the "before" version.

Pierre came in as a stray, with long, matted curly hair. He was dirty and muddy. Now he's been cleaned, shaved, fully vaccinated and neutered. And he looks terrible! IMHO.

Poor little guy. Hopefully, he'll outgrow this shaved state and be curly (and matted) again ... for you.

Pierre is an active dog, who will fit best in a family with children ages five and older.

Countryside Humane Society is located at 2706 Chicory Road. Or call (262) 554-6699.

Last week's friendly puppy, Chaz, has new owners who are thrilled with their new friend.

Don't take this personally, General, but ...

U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, D-WI, issued the following remarks prior to delivery this afternoon during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Iraq with General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker:

Thank you both for coming again to testify here today.

I’d also like to thank you both for your long and distinguished service to this country. While we may not see eye to eye on the current situation in Iraq or the way forward, I have great respect for the difficult work you’re undertaking – the outcome of which will be with us for many, many years.

I hope you won’t take it personally when I say that I wish we were also hearing today from those who could help us look at Iraq from a broader perspective. The participation at this hearing of those charged with regional and global responsibilities would have given us the chance to discuss how the war in Iraq is undermining our national security. It might have helped us answer the most important question we face – not “are we winning or losing in Iraq?” but “are we winning or losing in the global fight against al Qaeda?”

Like many Americans, I am gravely concerned by how bogged down we are in Iraq. Our huge, open-ended military presence there is not only undermining our ability to respond to the global threat posed by al Qaeda, but it is also creating greater regional instability, serving as a disincentive for Iraqis to reach political reconciliation, straining our military, and piling up debt for future generations to repay.

I am pleased that violence in parts of the country has declined, but as the increase in violence in Mosul and recent events in Basra and now Baghdad indicate, long-term prospects for reconciliation appear to be just as shaky as they were before the surge. In fact, the drop in violence could have serious costs, as it is partly attributable to the deals we have struck with local militias, all of which could make national reconciliation that much more difficult.

We need to redeploy our troops from Iraq and I am disappointed that you are calling for a halt in troop reductions, General Petraeus, because the presence of about 140,000 troops in Iraq will exacerbate the conflict, not stabilize it, and it will certainly not contribute to our overall national security. Some have suggested that we should stay in Iraq until reconciliation occurs. They have it backwards -- our departure is likely to force factions to the negotiating table in an attempt to finally create a viable power-sharing agreement.

If we redeploy, Iraq will no longer be the “‘cause celebre’ for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world,” as the Intelligence Community so clearly stated. Iran, as well as Turkey, Syria, and other regional actors, will have to decide if Iraqi instability is really in their interests once we are no longer on the hook. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we will be able to adequately address what must be our top priority – the threat posed by al Qaeda around the globe, and particularly its safe haven in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. Nothing could be clearer than the need to refocus all our instruments of national power to combat this threat.

Redeployment does not mean abandoning Iraq. We must work for a peaceful outcome in that country. But if we continue to leave our military caught up in the sectarian divisions that consume Iraq, we will be doing so at grave risk to Iraq’s progress, the region’s stability, and our own national security.

UPDATE: The NYTimes blog, The Lede, is live-blogging the hearing. Here, with a bit of background, is part of the exchange between Feingold and Petraeus:

The Elephant in the Room | 5:05 p.m. The title of this hearing is “Iraq After the Surge: What’s Next?” For several senators, the answer is Al Qaeda’s base on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Unfortunately, that’s outside the purview of the two American officials sitting before the Senate today.

After several colleagues failed to get very far on the subject today, Senator Russell Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, aired the grievance.

“I hope you won’t take it personally when I say that I wish we were also hearing today from those who are viewing Iraq from a broader perspective,” he told them. “They would’ve helped us answer the most important question we face, which is not whether we are winning or losing in Iraq. Are we winning or losing in the global fight against Al Qaeda?”

Against his better judgment, he asked Gen. Petraeus anyway: “Do you think Al Qaeda is our top threat?” The general agreed, but his answer did not stray beyond his portfolio in Iraq. Inevitably, Mr. Feingold was served the reminder he wished to avoid: “Again, senator: I’m talking about Al Qaeda in Iraq.”

April 7, 2008

1,600 cases of Miller beer stolen from Mount Pleasant company

Update: It's not the first time this has happened. In February 2006, a trailer with $25,000 worth of beer was stolen from Richfield, Wis. in Washington County. (Does anyone know where Dooley was this morning around 2 a.m.?)

Original Post: Folks, we're not making this up ...

Police are searching for two suspects accused of stealing 1,600 cases of Miller beer early Monday morning.

The suspects stole two semi tractors out of Will County, Ill. at 2 a.m., drove them to Hribar Trucking at 2151 S. East Frontage Road and managed to getaway with a trailer full of beer valued at $24,000 wholesale, according to Mount Pleasant police.

The suspects were interrupted during the theft and left one of the stolen trucks behind. The trailer itself was worth $7,100 and belonged to Schneider National.

The two stolen trucks came up from a business called ATSI in Will County, Ill. The stolen tractor left at the scene was a "White Volvo Tractor." The tractor that got away with the trailer is a White Freightliner.

The stolen trailer is white with blue Miller lettering, printing reads, "Great Taste of a True Pilsner Beer." Depicted on the side of the trailer is a bottle of Miller Beer and a Glass of Beer.

Free cuppa Starbucks coffee on Tuesday...

Mystery solved! But you have to give Starbucks credit for knowing how to milk free publicity across the country.

In February, the chain shut down all its stores for three hours, to retrain its baristas. That sure made the papers.

This weekend, the ad above appeared in major dailies like the New York Times. Today comes the explanation: Starbucks is introducing a new blend of "everyday" coffee called "Pike Place Roast," and for 30 minutes will hand out free 8-ounce cups of it (That's a "short" in Starbucks-speak.) at every company-owned store.

For us, the only store handing out free coffee is the Starbucks at 5658 Washington Ave. (at the intersection of Highways 30 and 31). It does NOT mean the Starbucks counter inside Barnes and Noble Booksellers.

All the high-falutin' verbiage -- "the simple romance," "hand-scooped," "37 years of coffee roasting experience, knowledge and passion," yada yada -- about the new coffee is HERE.

Hey, folks: It's a cuppa coffee, fer cryin' out loud.

Shock and awe ... at the gas pump

Tell me again why you bought that big ol' truck, that gas guzzlin' sedan? "I wish I knew," the guy with the GMC pickup said, as he shut the pump off at $30 -- 8.6 gallons. And how far would $30 worth of gas get him? "About 100 miles, hopefully to payday on Friday," he said.

A trip through local gas stations this morning shows that many motorists are coping with the rise in gas prices by limiting the amount they buy; many pumps show evidence of $7 (two gallons) and $10 (2.7 gallons) purchases. That'll show those greedy:
a.) refiners,
b.) Mid-East suppliers,
c.) clueless politicians.
Good luck with that. Gas prices, according to MilwaukeeGasPrices.com which monitors them, went up again over the weekend. The chart above shows the big picture; driving by any local gas stations here in Racine shows it as well.

The average price of $3.47 a gallon for Regular is up nine cents from a week ago, and 35 cents from a month ago. And more than double what it was five years ago before the war in Iraq (fought to protect our oil supply and keep prices down, cough cough).

AAA Wisconsin says the record for the Milwaukee area is $3.49 a gallon, hit last May 24. Stay tuned; picture at left is from the Citgo station on Lathrop this morning. And if you use diesel, well, that may have been an economical choice once upon a time, but no longer. We found diesel prices ranging from $3.79.9 at one BP station, to $4.05.9 at Mobil.

The only thing that makes gas prices look cheap at most gas stations is the price of a pack of cigarettes. Choose your poison.

Pearle Vision in Regency Mall closing

Pearle Vision in Regency Mall is closing on April 16, according to a store employee.

The store is owned by Luxottica Group, which operates Pearle Vision, Lenscrafters, Sun Glasses Hut, among other businesses. It used to be D.O.C. Optics, which was known for its high-end eyewear.

Luxottica, based in Milan, Italy, bought D.O.C. Optics in 2006 for $90 million. The chain had 100 stores in Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Missouri and Florida.

The move isn't a surprise. Regency Mall already has a Lenscrafters in the mall, and a Pearle Vision outside of the mall, said Ken Brown, the manager of the D.O.C. store in the mall from 1990-2000.

While at D.O.C., Brown offered alternative eyewear products from what larger chains offered. He's trying to do the same at his new store, EyeOpenerZ in Downtown Racine.

"You try to carry the opposite of what" the chains offer, he said.

Luxottica is the largest eye frame manufacturer in the world, and is Italy's largest business. It operates most popular brands of eyewear, including the recently purchased Oakley line.

Brown said he had nothing against Luxottica, though added: "It does seem like they're getting awfully huge."

Brown, who is an optician, left D.O.C. in 2000 after his five-year franchise agreement ran out. He worked as a wholesaler and consultant until opening EyeOpenerZ in Brookfield three years ago. He later closed that store and reopened in Downtown Racine at 334 Main St.

Dr. Synda Johnson, an optometrist, also works at EyeOpenerZ.

April 6, 2008

Sixth Street sidewalk replacement starts Friday

Good news for Sixth Street merchants and customers: The reconstruction work is on schedule -- maybe even a bit ahead -- and construction of new sidewalks could begin as early as Friday. Weather permitting!

Goodbye to sheets of plywood and steel underfoot.

As sanitary sewer and water work is completed between Monument Square and Park Avenue, sidewalk work will start in the 200 block of Sixth, and then continue into the 300 block through April 18. New sidewalks for the 400 block should begin on April 22.

Although some of the roadway itself looks ready for repaving, that work is also weather-driven, and will have to wait for a while: Asphalt plants, needing warmer temperatures, typically don't open for the construction season until the last week of April or the first week of May.

This news, especially good for those merchants at the east end of the Sixth Street reconstruction project, comes from the latest construction update newsletter, sent by Kris Martinsek of Martinsek & Associates.

Kris emphasizes that this optimistic schedule depends upon "no surprises and cross your fingers that it doesn’t rain or snow." Gas work will continue through April 18, assuming that all sanitary sewer, sanitary laterals, water main and water laterals have been completed. At present, water lateral work is scheduled for the north and south sides of the street from April 7 through April 11.

The 300 block may also start getting new sidewalks April 11 with restoration ongoing through April 18. Crews have to complete one sewer lateral to Porters, scheduled on Wednesday, and several water laterals on the north and south sides of the street this week to keep to this schedule.

The schedule calls for sanitary laterals on the south side of Sixth to be completed by Thursday and on the north side between April 15 and April 22. Replacement of water laterals could begin sometime the week of April 12 and continue through April 22.

Of course, once this is done, the construction moves farther west for its second phase, doing the section of Sixth Street from Park to Grand Avenue. Final completion date for this year's work is July 3.

The newsletter says Globe Contractors is making good progress toward the completion of the Phase 1 sewer and water main replacements by May 5. The only surprises so far -- "normal when contractors dig 14-ft. deep trenches and excavate aging sewer and water systems," says Kris -- have been damage to an unmarked power line, which caused an interruption in service to Uncorkt during one day; discovery of some roof drains tied into the sanitary sewer system rather than the storm system; and a completely rotted sewer lateral was found in the 400 block, quickly replaced with new PVC pipe by the store owner's plumber.

The total project, reconstruction of one-third of a mile of Sixth Street, from Monument Square to Grand Avenue, and from store front to store front including removal and replacement of all pavement, curb and gutter, and sidewalks, has a total cost of $3.09 million. This year's project involves the replacement of utility lines that are nearly 100 years old and well beyond their service lives -- including some wooden water pipes. The roadway improvement part of the project won't take place until 2009.