Updated: SUEZ Water project to begin April 19 on Lake Street; Strawberry Festival planning continues

SUEZ Water project to begin April 19 on Lake Street in OwegoPictured, Jeff Van Wagen, manager of United Water Owego-Nichols, addresses their upcoming Lake Street project with the Owego Village Board and the residents and merchants that attended a meeting on Tuesday in Owego. (Photos by Wendy Post)
SUEZ Water project to begin April 19 on Lake Street in Owego

Pat Hansen, organizer of Owego’s Strawberry Festival, asks questions about the water repair project and Lake Street and how it might affect this year’s Strawberry Festival, planned for June 16 and 17 in Owego.

At Tuesday’s Village of Owego board meeting, which was standing room only, Jeff Van Wagen, manager of United Water Owego-Nichols, attended to discuss the replacement of aging water lines on Lake Street in Owego.

The original project was planned for last fall, but was postponed until the spring. On Tuesday, Van Wagen presented that they were planning to start their project on June 19, the Monday following this year’s Strawberry Festival.

But the merchants attending the meeting were opposed to that start date, and wanted the project started sooner, than later.

Strawberry Festival organizers were concerned, however, that the earlier date for the project will run into the timeframe for the annual Strawberry Festival, planned for June 16 and 17 in downtown Owego.

Van Wagen initially addressed the meeting, stating that SUEZ was trying to join the effort with NYSEG, who is planning to repair some gas lines, for a scheduled project date of June 19, which would be after the Strawberry Festival; and that the sharing of services would allow for the digging up of Lake Street to happen one time, versus at two separate times.

Owego merchants that attended the meeting had concern over the June 19 date, stating that it would cut into their 4th quarter sales. Each project, both the SUEZ project and NYSEG project, according to Van Wagen, will take six weeks to complete, for a total of three months.

The project, he continued, involves digging up the old water lines, running temporary water lines, and then replacing the aging lines. He added that the water lines are original, dating back to 1882.

“There is pretty much nothing left of them,” said Van Wagen.

But the majority in attendance stated that they wanted the project done earlier, and the board made a decision to listen to the area merchants and allow SUEZ to target April 19 for a start date. Weather dependent, the project could be completed by June 1.

There was also an issue surrounding paving that came up, with Van Wagen stating that if they partner with NYSEG on the project, that they could possibly share the paving costs – although this agreement has not been agreed upon by NYSEG yet.

If NYSEG agrees to partner and perform their work immediately following the SUEZ project, then Lake Street could potentially be closed down for three months following the April 19 date, thus affecting Owego’s Strawberry Festival. If NYSEG does not perform their project in unison with SUEZ, then Lake Street will be subjected to the same disruption again, at a later date by NYSEG.

Van Wagen did note that Lake Street would be closed from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. throughout the duration of the project, and open to thru-traffic in the evening. However, there will be no parking allowed on Lake Street, during the day or night.

In the meantime, Mayor Steve May will be making phone calls to the Public Service Commission to find out what NYSEG intends to do, and the Strawberry Festival Committee will wait for word on the duration of the project, and if it will have an impact on the layout of the festival.

The festival committee did, however, gather a vote from Historic Owego Marketplace members on Wednesday to see whether they wanted to continue planning for the festival and alter the layout if needed, or if they should cancel the festival in its entirety.

According to Pat Hansen, Strawberry Festival coordinator, HOM members voted to move forward with planning for the festival, scheduled for June 16 and 17 in Owego, N.Y.

The Owego Pennysaver will be following any updates on the NYSEG and SUEZ project, and will be providing extensive coverage on Strawberry Festival activities.

Continue to visit our website at www.owegopennysaver.com for complete coverage.

3 Comments on "Updated: SUEZ Water project to begin April 19 on Lake Street; Strawberry Festival planning continues"

  1. And just exactly how is this going to affect our water bills? For the last several years, our water bills have increased significantly every quarter which is insane. I use less than the minimum amount of water each quarter yet my bill has gone from $45 a quarter to almost $100 a quarter over a period of a few years. It’s more than doubled. That’s NOT acceptable. Every time I’ve tried to talk to either Suez or the PSC, they’ve blown off my concerns and they keep referring me back and forth between the two. There are many of us who want to know why this is happening and when the rate increases are going to stop.

  2. If you close stawberry you will lose a lot of Money.

  3. Chick McHenry | May 1, 2017 at 10:47 am | Reply

    It seems to me that no matter when you close off Lake Street for 3 months (or probably more), the merchants there are going to suffer. There will simply be nowhere to park and most people will take the business they usually keep here at home to someplace cleaner and more convenient. Cancelling Strawberry Festival would be a huge loss to the community at large. Having the festival with Lake St. all torn up would be a disaster. I am sure we all understand what one disasterous festival could do to future attendance. Start the project on June 19th (after the festival) and let the merchants bite the bullet without damaging the reputation of the festival. Push to get NYSEG on board. It’s the only logical conclusion.

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