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Strasburg's night utility work earns award

By Alex Bridges

Strasburg's strategy of replacing utility pipes at night to avoid traffic woes earned the town a statewide award.

Town representatives recently accepted the Virginia Municipal League's Achievement Award for jurisdictions of 5,000-10,000 people for the work performed in the first phase of the utility replacement project along King Street. The town's use of its own labor to save money also helped give Strasburg an edge.

The organization presented five awards at its annual meeting last week.

The Department of Public Works continues to use the same approach as water and sewer lines are replaced along downtown King Street. Director Mark Gundersen and Town Manager Judson Rex voiced excitement about Strasburg receiving the award.

"We were also very happy that we had the chance to do it to save the town money at the end of the day," Gundersen said.

The director noted that replacement of the utilities helps Strasburg avoid the need to constantly repair the aging water and sewer lines. In the long run, the project reduces cost by cutting down on how much water seeps into the system that the town would need to treat.

"We're very happy ... that we've been recognized for our work out there," Gundersen said.

Rex said that Strasburg applied earlier in the summer for the award. The league received about 45 applications from jurisdictions across the state, he said.

"The mayor kinda said this was one of the things on his bucket list as mayor and we were proud of the work that Public Works did with the utility replacement project downtown," Rex said. "When you think about just replacing utilities it doesn't seem like anything glamorous ... Mark sort of designed the project in an innovative way, approached it innovatively."

Rex noted that the town used its own staff to perform the work and scheduled construction at night.

The town also used automated flagging devices rather than people to control traffic through the construction zone. Rex said this project marked the first time such equipment had been used in the state. Rex added that other equipment in use helped keep the project cost to a minimum. The town had a tight budget for the first phase of the project -- $90,000 for water and $80,000 for sewer-line replacement.

Construction of Phase II currently under way calls for $120,000 to replace water lines and $300,000 for sewer lines.

The department continues to employ the same techniques and equipment as it did during the first phase of the project, Rex said.

"It proved very useful and set a high standard for all our infrastructure projects in the future," Rex said.

The department also changed the shifts for its workers to accommodate for the nighttime work, Rex explained. The town used nearly all 20 people on staff in the department on the project, he said.

"That was another consideration we had to think about is how do we still do the rest of what Public Works has to do and still get this done," Rex said. "I think with Phase I we learned some lessons."

Finishing work on the first phase quickly also helped the department address its other duties, Rex noted.

The town manager added that Gundersen and the Virginia Department of Transportation had to work together on the needed permits and plans for the project.

Visit http://www.vml.org/VTC/VTCindex.html to view the VML's magazine article on the award winners.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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