The State Street reconstruction project is moving right along and portions should be open in time for this weekend’s 59th annual Howell Melon Festival.

The majority of the State Street project is being funded through a state grant and plans call for reconstructing it a festival street that is completely barrier free, along with both the east/west and north/south alleys. Water mains and sewer lines are also being replaced in the area, as well as storm sewer as needed. Work has been progressing and the alleys are mostly done, although there was a bit of a snafu with some materials that had to be changed out. Interim City Manager Erv Suida provided an update at Monday’s Council meeting and the project is on schedule for mid-September completion. As for the base materials in the private and public alleys, crushed limestone was originally used from a quarry in Dundee. Suida tells WHMI the limestone had an unpleasant odor to it from naturally occurring biological matter. He says it had a petroleum-type smell to it and even though it was natural, it did have a nuisance type odor. Suida says they worked with the contractor on a resolution to remove that stone and bring in a natural aggregate stone that didn’t have any odor. Suida says one of the reasons they wanted to do that was because the tight confines of the alley kind of exacerbated the odor and made the smell a little stronger than normal. He says the smell eventually goes away but no one could pinpoint exactly how long or when so they just thought would be best to remove and replace the limestone.

Suida says all of the underground work is basically done in both alleys but DTE still has to start pulling wires through the conduit and plans on starting that work Thursday. He says they wanted to get the alley portion done including the concrete and brick to be open in time for Melonfest and it looks like they’ll be able to hit that schedule but noted there is still a significant amount of work left to do on State Street. He says the contractor has done a fantastic job on a very difficult construction project with significant underground work and confined spaces. Meanwhile, new signs will be going up to showcase the project during Melonfest and throughout the remainder of the project. The signs will feature photos of what the finished product should look like and detail how it was funded, as the majority was state grant funded. The City continues to grapple with fiscal stresses like most communities across the state but was able to achieve a balanced budget. Suida says they wanted to put out informational signs to give the public a sneak peek of what the road and alleys will look like but also explain where the funding came from. Suida says out of a $2.2 (m) million project, 90% of the cost was funded through a state CDBG grant – which is quite a bit of money from the state, not tax dollars. He says winning the Great American Main Street Award was one of the reasons the City was successful in obtaining the grant so they’re both excited and proud.

The 59th annual Howell Melon Festival officially runs Friday, Saturday and Sunday; although the festival tent on South Center Street will be open Thursday evening. Parking will be prohibited on some streets throughout the downtown and portions of Grand River and Michigan Avenue will be shut down. Detour routes will be posted and parking on residential streets is permitted where noted. A complete schedule of events can be found through the link. (JM)