(EDITOR’S NOTE: Today the Sun-Gazette continues its annual review of the past year’s major news stories.)
Three of the city’s larger developments emerged this year and each likely will impact lives next year and beyond.
Lycoming College’s $12.5 million Krapf Gateway Center opened in late October.
The stately edifice is a part of the overall revitalization of the East Third Street/Old City Gateway Revitalization, a joint project with the city.
Accompanying the building were improvements of streets in the Old City area, which included paving, adding eye-pleasing crosswalks, safer intersections and period lights, such as they would appear in the 1800s, according to contractors and Dr. Kent Trachte, Lycoming College president.
A second significant project was the restoration of a 140-year-old brick water-sanitary line that caused a sinkhole to form when it collapsed and leaked beneath Campbell Street, said Michael Miller, executive director of the Williamsport Municipal Water and Sanitary Authority.
Finally, the continued reconstruction of West Fourth Street in Newberry gained momentum and should be finished by next year, or shortly after then, state Department of Transportation engineers said.
“We watched it go up,” said David Witmer, on-site construction manger with Reynolds Construction Management Inc. of the college building with excitement in his voice.
The building opened on Oct. 25 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Visitors took tours of the building, which offers a first-floor lounge, Welcome Center, climbing wall and offices for the new Outdoor Leadership Education programs, Trachte noted.
“It’s an ideal first stop for prospective students and allows the college to make a very positive first impression,” Trachte said.
The second floor comprises the Center for Enhanced Academic Experiences (CEAE), which enables students to supplement their learning, he said.
There are new co-curricular experiences, such as study abroad and travel courses, internships, and student-faculty research, Trachte said.
“This is where students go to plan and prepare for their futures,” he said.
On that floor is a suite with an interview room, area for conferences and a “Career Closet,” which is an place stocked with drycleaned professional attire for students to borrow in case of interviews or job fairs.
The building has a cafe serving sandwiches, salads, and coffee named after the Warrior, the school mascot. From here are views of the campus’ upper quad.
The second-floor lobby leads to the college’s upper quad with access to Clarke Chapel, Lamade Gymnasium, and the Fine Arts building, he said. A patio is available to rest on with a fire pit to light on cool evenings, Trachte said.
The building has a College Advancement and Alumni Relations, which creates a destination on campus for alumni and other friends of the college.
In addition to staff members, the area includes a conference room, Trachte said.
An auditorium inside holds more than 200 guests, he said.
The technology includes a large multi-screen display for videos and other presentations; two large seminar room with chairs and tables that create a learning atmosphere; and four student study rooms with comfortable furniture and small screens for group or individual study, Trachte said.
The third floor also includes lounge furniture and tables for work or study, with vintage views of the upper quad, as well as mountain views to the south of campus.
Outside the building, Witmer further described the realignment of streets.
Franklin Street now connects directly with Basin Street at East Fourth Street.
There is a four-way stop intersection and pedestrian brick paver crosswalks at the site.
Basin Street was reopened in late November/eary December for one-way traffic and will be opened to two-way north-south traffic.
In between the north-south lanes is a grass medial strip with period lamps and areas for hanging and displaying plants and growing grass.
In 2020, the crews plan to pave East Third Street, between Basin and State streets, Witmer said.
“We’re eager for the stronger connectivity that will be fostered with Old City and Williamsport.
That includes students and college community members using the area south of campus,” Trachte said.
of more work
Williamsport Municipal Water and Sanitary Authority employees and officials were stunned.
After several hard rains a sink hole formed on Campbell Street, near West Third Street. It was June 1 and it was the result of the full collapse of a 140-year-old brick-covered water-sanitary line, the authority staff executive director noted.
At the scene, the laborers looked as though they were standing in quicksand, with muck and mud covering their waders almost to their hips and stomachs, according to visits by Sun-Gazette photographers and reporters.
It took more than two weeks of effort to remove the broken pipe and then replace it with 48-inch triple-lined material.
The new pipe is strong and durable with a life-expectancy of 100 years, said Eric Smithgall, authority engineer.
The collapse was repaired in about three weeks, but it could likely be symptomatic of worsening conditions of aged pipelines beneath the city, according to William Nichols Sr., the eldest of the authority board members.
Nichols expressed concern during a recent authority meeting about the condition of these discharge systems. The city is nearly complete with its transfer of stormwater discharge systems to the authority.
The authority has a joint plan in place with the city to form a stormwater authority to assess customers of the authority a stormwater fee.
The fee would be based on the amount of stormwater flowing from each residential, commercial, industrial or non-profit organization property, Nichols said.
The fee collected would then be used toward the cost of repairing and replacing the aged systems, which is part federal and state government agency environmental mandate and fulfills the Clean Water Act and Chesapeake Bay clean up.
Today, there is an estimated 110 miles of sewer, water and combined infrastructure under the city, much of it built 50 to 150 years ago, according to Miller.
The year ahead will be one in which the authority attempts to determine the extend of the replacements and work on initiating the authority fee after the successful transfer, according to Steven W. Cappelli, water authority board chairman.
It’s finally happening on West Fourth Street.
The complete reconstruction of 1.3 miles of the street, between Route 15 and near the entrance to the Williamsport Area High School has begun in earnest.
After a year of setting up a detour on West Third Street and Wahoo Drive, contractors got busy ripping up the material, much of it done in spring and summer, according to Jay Miller, assistant construction engineer with PennDOT.
“It’s been needed for many years,” he said of the job which continues next year.
Individuals may ask why the street had to see a reconstruction.
For those who drive it, the answer is clear. Pot holes, cracks and dips — many that can cause a tire to burst or a car to require a realignment.
The main issue was the road foundation failing, Miller said.
“The structure underneath serving as the base for the road was failing,” he said.
So this year, contractors got to work milling down 20 inches of material, he said.
“They then rebuilt the road from the bottom up,” he said.
That included lowering the elevation of the driving surface to help with drainage.
Excavator operators used saws to cut and take out recycled material, such as bricks and concrete, Miller said.
Stone layers were applied, then blacktop was put on for a smooth finish.
In 2020, the western end of the project will be reconstructed from Hillside Ave to 300 east of Millionaire Lane.
After that is completed the section from Oliver Street to Arch Street will be milled and resurfaced, Miller said.
When the contractor does reconstruction, a single lane of traffic will be open through construction zone coming east followed by westbound traffic work, he said.
Once the reconstruction is done, and the final milling and paving is done in daylight, there will be a single lane driving operation in effect, he said.
Traffic will be controlled by flaggers during the mill and paving portions.
A controversial part of the project included the removal of shade trees.
Many residents were upset about that because they were unclear of plans to replant.
“Trees are infrastructure and that’s why municipalities are looking for ways to incorporate trees into their design plans, not prohibit them,” said Michele Frey, a resident of West Fourth Street.
“All we are seeking is to have our community restored to the natural beauty that we enjoyed before the street trees were removed,” she said.
When asked about the trees, Joel Klemick, highway design squad leader for the department, said he wants to see a resolution.
“PennDOT is working directly with the city to identify possible tree replanting locations,” he said.
A local tree service may be a part of the overall solution.
“When we met with PennDOT employees in October, we were joined by Dincher’s Tree Service, which outlined all the benefits of trees, including the money that could be saved secondary to storm water management and concrete expenses, which would be reduced by 10 percent if space for street trees is included in the design,” said Robbie Cross, a Newberry resident.
Toward the end of the year, both the citizens, state and city streets and parks employees said during public works committee meetings they were prepared next year to meet and to discuss issues related to the final redesign and tree plantings.