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Utility work starts

Work was slated to start Jan. 25 on a water and sewer main replacement on Grace Street.

Town officials said at a Jan. 20 informational meeting at the Smithfield Center that the project has been in the works for several years. Resurfacing the pavement on Grace Street is planned soon, so town officials wanted to move quickly before the Virginia Department of Transportation starts repaving.

“We do not like to go in and tear up a road that’s just been milled,” said Wayne Griffin, Smithfield’s town engineer. Regarding the water and sewer line upgrade, “we felt like this would be an ideal time to do it.”

Suffolk-based Lewis Construction is the contractor for the project, which will cost $1.2 million — $600,000 for water and $600,000 for sewer, according to Town Manager Michael Stallings. The scope of work will include installing new water mains and sewer mains, manholes, new fire hydrants and lateral lines for both systems. The work is expected to take several months.

The Grace Street water lines set for replacement are probably about 100 years old and likely part of Smithfield’s original municipal water system, which dates to the early 1900s, according to Jeff Smith, the town’s supervisor of public works.

A 4-inch water line on Grace Street and a 6-inch water line on Thomas Street will both be replaced by an 8-inch water main. The larger line will also improve fire safety, Smith said. The new fire hydrants can handle a higher flow of water.

The Grace Street project will be similar to a utility project on Main Street that also replaced a 100-year-old water main. That work concluded about four years ago. Although Grace Street will be closed to through traffic, residents will have access at all times.

Being that Grace Street is part of the town’s historic district, Griffin acknowledged that they might encounter some surprises when excavation begins. “It’s going to be a little interesting for all of us, I guess, to find out what is in the area that we’re looking at,” he said.

Town officials and project leaders answered questions from a small group of residents for about 45 minutes and stayed after the meeting concluded to talk individually with people to address specific concerns. Those in attendance included Gina Ippolito, who lives on James Street about a block away from the core of the project. Her mother lives on Grace Street.

“I’ve lived downtown for almost 20 years and been here in Smithfield for almost 30,” Ippolito said. She said she’s gotten through previous major public works projects, including the Main Street water main replacement. “I think the town communicates very well,” she continued.

Ippolito suggested during the informal meeting that neighborhood residents band together to share project updates through social media or mass text messages for any area residents who wish to opt in.

Although she feels her concerns about the project were addressed, Ippolito acknowledged that some frustrations and inconvenience are inevitable when a public works project is in progress. “It’ll still affect me getting in and out of my street sometimes [but] I do think that if we as a neighborhood can rally our information, I think that that’ll help.”