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Board of works gets detailed look at Potts Ditch proposal

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GREENFIELD — While a $9.37 million price tag to alleviate flooding along Potts Ditch might not be appealing to county officials, they agree the problem is one that must be addressed.

A representative from engineering firm Clark Dietz came before the Greenfield Board of Works and Public Safety Tuesday morning to discuss how rerouting the ditch would ease drainage issues along the mostly underground tunnel built more than a century ago.

Clark Dietz conducted a study of the ditch and its flow patterns over the course of six months. The study cost $66,200.

Board members remarked that, however expensive, the ditch project has been a long time coming. The ditch’s current path, which starts at Fourth Street and heads southeast to south Spring Street, runs beneath at least four structures, which presents liability issues when the ditch overflows.

“I’m surprised the church is still standing,” board member Dan Reigelsperger said, referring to the oft-flooded Protestant Church at 204 E. North St., under which the ditch runs.

Potts Ditch has few openings and begins to flood at the openings whenever there is significant rainfall. Debris from the open part of the ditch can collect and become stuck in the tunnel’s underground twists and turns, enhancing the flooding risk.

Of course, that hasn’t been a problem this summer, given the drought, but officials know the reprieve is temporary.

“It’s not a project that’s gonna go away,” city engineer Mike Fruth told the board. “This is a major project, which will certainly result in the need for some funding.”

The most recent flooding happened in 2008, when storm water overflowed and flooded a nearby home. The city spent roughly $60,000 to rehabilitate part of the ditch, but officials say that was a short-term solution to a long-term problem.

Jessica Bastin, project manager at Clark Dietz, said the city can choose to construct a new ditch in phases, but it would be best to come up with the lump sum for the project ahead of time.

“The commitment needs to be made to find the money,” she said. “You really need to have the funding in place for the entire project before it could be implemented.”

Rerouting the ditch entirely, instead of modifying the existing infrastructure, is most efficient because it would allow the ditch to continue operating while construction of the new ditch is under way, Bastin said.

The new ditch would go along Grant Street, East Street, North Street and Spring Street, avoiding as much construction as possible in the areas of State and Main streets, the city’s busiest roads.

The design phase of the project would take nine months to a year, and construction could be completed afterward in about that same amount of time, Bastin said.

A Clark Dietz representative is expected to present to the Greenfield City Council today.

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