The town of Benson has learned some valuable lessons from the project aimed at upgrading the sewer system in the downtown area.
Benson Mayor Jerry Medlin said when crews opened up the street, they found themselves not only doing work, but also wondering how the system survived all these years.
“I wish you could see all of the things we ran into when we started replacing the sewer lines under Main Street,” he said. “There were a bunch of them that weren’t hooked up.”
Medlin said the obvious happened and the discharge from the pipes had nowhere to go but out. And that’s where it remained.
“I don’t understand how that stuff would stay in the ground,” he said. “I suppose it was the heat. But if you look at those holes, they were deeper than a man.”
Medlin is confident the workers will clear Main Street in time for the annual Mule Days Celebration that takes place this year Sept. 27-29, with the annual concert on Sept. 26. The celebration will be followed by the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s efforts to repave the street in the aftermath of the sewer project.
Medlin said the tentative date to begin repaving is Oct. 1.
“They’ll come in and start paving from 301 all the way to Interstate 95,” he said. “We hope to get that done starting Oct. 1.”
During the upgrade to Main Street, the water lines were also moved and improved, according to Medlin. He said the lines are being relocated to other areas in an order to prevent any major water main breaks often dealt with by larger municipalities.
“Waterlines are what you have to worry with and if you notice on TV that Raleigh has a water main break everyday,” he said. “By moving these behind the stores we won’t have to worry about the Main Street paving.”
Medlin also injected his noted humor on the situation when it comes to the completion of the proposed paving project. He said it may be the only time a town has a ribbon-cutting for such projects.
“As I said, we’re going to have a ribbon-cutting for the paving,” he said. “People are so happy that there’s a thought all these holes will be filled up.”
In addition to paving Main Street, the town will also see a new parking area created, according to Medlin. He said the plan calls for creating the new lot at the corner of Main and Elm streets, currently the space is occupied by the construction equipment utilized on the sewer upgrade.
“Right across from where Johnson’s Real Estate place is,” he said. “We’re going to go in and pave it, put the stops on and put the signs up.”
Medlin said the 10-year agreement with owner Luby Wood allows the town to utilize the lot as long as they maintain the area.
“People don’t realize what Luby does that nobody even knows about,” Medlin said. “Just like the Jimmy Capps celebration, he paid for the building to have that. He said he couldn’t use the lot.”
Under the terms of the agreement, Wood is required to give a year’s notice to the town and if it comes before the 10-year agreement expires, he is required to pay for the work done on the lot.
The paving project is actually a year behind schedule, according to Medlin. He said the project was originally scheduled to be done last year, but NCDOT altered its plans.
“They were supposed to have done it last year,” he said. “But when they came up at the last minute and said they wanted to delay it, we told them that wasn’t a good idea. They said they were going to (delay) it anyway.”
Medlin said the sewer replacement and paving of Main Street is just one phase of what he hopes will be a continuing upgrade to the town’s infrastructure.
“We’re going to continue on the route to get what I like to call our superstructure up,” he said. “Those sewer lines were 80 years old. In the beginning they were fine, in the downtown area you wouldn’t have as much sewage generated as you might expect at somebody’s house.”