A stormwater drainage project in the Chimney Hill neighborhood slated to start this year has nearly tripled in cost because of a recommendation to replace major water and sewer lines.

The city still plans to spend $1.4 million on a network of storm sewers through the neighborhood and under MacArthur Drive to drain stormwater toward Landon Branch. Residents in the subdivision long have complained of flooded streets.

But staffers told Waco City Council’s budget and audit committee that engineers found a need to replace old waterlines at a cost of $1.1 million and wastewater lines for $1.4 million.

City utility director Lisa Tyer said the sewer lines along MacArthur lie along the drainage easements and could fail when they are disturbed during construction. Likewise, the cast-iron waterlines under the street are about a half-century old and could be weakened by the construction project, leading to leaks in the future.

The project will last from November until April 2019, and it is expected to cause some traffic delays along MacArthur Drive.

City staff said the money for the drainage project is already in the capital improvement program budget, while the utility lines will be paid for by this year’s package of utility bonds.

“It’s an expensive project,” City Manager Dale Fisseler said. “Stormwater is one of those things that doesn’t affect a lot of people, but those people are affected a lot.”

Fisseler said a stormwater master plan that is close to completion will detail the city’s drainage priorities, and he expects more discussion on how to fund those needs, perhaps with a monthly stormwater drainage utility fee for residents and businesses.

Council members and staff also discussed the Barron’s Branch culvert reconstruction project, which was completed at a cost of $4 million last year. The metal drainage tunnel that formerly channeled the creek near Indian Spring Middle School was in danger of collapsing.

That problem is now fixed, but the problem of trash washing into the Brazos River from Barron’s Branch remains.

Interim public works director Chuck Dowdell proposed using a simple boom across the mouth of the creek to trap trash. The project would cost almost $400,000 for the boom, a ramp and a new grappling truck, which also could be used to clean other creeks.

Mayor Kyle Deaver said the council will continue to discuss the details of how to keep trash out of the Brazos River.

“I’m really glad we’re taking action to stop that floatable stuff from getting out in the river,” Deaver said.

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