By Steve Hubrecht

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For the second summer in a row the District of Invermere has undertaken major sewer upgrades on 13th Avenue, and for the second summer in a row the work looks set to go beyond its target July-August timeline and spill over into September and October.

Last year the extended timeline caused a kerfuffle, as it created considerable traffic jams on the detours around the construction, particularly at Eileen Madson Primary School (EMP) during school drop off and pickup times.

Keen to avoid a repeat of that scenario, the district emphasized a strict July-August timeline for the second phased of upgrades this summer when awarding the contract for the job, and the contract included financial penalties if the work wasn’t done in time.

Last week, however, some residents directed the Pioneer’s attention to the enormous hole at the intersection of 13th Avenue and 14th Street, wondering how the upgrades were meant to be finished by the time schools open on Tuesday, Sept. 6. The Pioneer visited the site and can confirm the hole is deep indeed, with soil piled up on sections of 13th Avenue and 14th Street and several excavators, a steamroller and other heavy machinery were all on site amid the dirt.

As it turns out, MarWest Industries Ltd., the contractor doing the upgrades, has been plagued by the same staffing shortages that are tripping up virtually every business in the Columbia Valley, and that combined with the complexity of the work, mean that there’s no chance of having everything done by the Labour Day long weekend.

“MarWest are getting a lot closer to completion, but not all of the work will be completed by the end of the month,” Invermere chief administrative officer Andrew Young told the Pioneer on Thursday, Aug. 25. “The depth of the excavation has been a bit of a challenge.”

There is a silver lining though: the section of 13th Avenue between 10th Street and 14th Street will have all water and sewer connections in place and that part of the road will be paved and open to vehicles and pedestrians come the first day of school.

“They’re going to be paving it next week, it’s the most critical section,” said Young on Aug. 25. “Regular school bus service will be in place.”

Invermere council has also approved a change order to contract with MarWest, to allow additional — and badly needed — upgrades to the sewer system along 15th Street (between 13th Avenue and 12th Avenue).

“It is an ideal time to do it, while we have MarWest already mobilized. It will result in additional construction time, but it is much better to do it now, while they are on site,” said Young. 

MarWest will be completing the originally planned phase two sewer upgrades on 13th Avenue between 14th and 15th Streets in September and October, before then moving over to do the new additional work on 15th Street.

Sections of 13th Avenue and 15th Street will be closed while the work is in progress and detours will be in place when necessary. Some residents experience a temporary loss of water or be unable to access their driveways at times.