Cheney Free Press -

Managing Editor 

Project season nears for Cheney utilities


March 29, 2018

The weather still may carry threats of winter, but city of Cheney officials are beginning to look past the bluster to the heat of the upcoming projects season — one that will include a large mixture of public and private work.

The Public Works Department will be engaged in the lion’s share of work, beginning with the $1.8 million redrilling of the city’s well 3 later in the summer. The well, drilled in 1960 and located on Erie Street, originally was a high-producer but fell off several years ago due to what officials think was cracking to the interior of the well column.

By redrilling the well, the city hopes to be able to get its production back so it can be put into service to help Cheney’s four other wells brought online to meet demand during the six-month irrigation season. The City Council increased water rates in December to deal with infrastructure issues, like well 3, but the city also sought outside funding through the Department of Health.

Public Works Director Todd Ableman said that money didn’t come through, although the DOH only awarded $12 million of $20 million in grant money set aside, and might award the additional $8 million later in 2018. The city did get $750,000 for well 3 put into the state’s supplemental budget, and hopes to pursue additional funding from the Public Works Trust Fund, which announced it has $5 million in emergency funds awarded on a first come, first served basis, with a $1 million maximum award amount.

“That’s pretty close to our estimate ($1.8 million), so we’d be pretty pleased with that,” Ableman said.

Cheney received $175,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds for a water main replacement project this year on North Third Street from Elm to Oakland streets. Ableman said the funding only covers Ash to Oakland, but the city will look at ways of extending that to Elm.

Also on tap is an estimated $816,000 in street work, the largest of which is the $450,000 arterial restoration work on Betz Road from North Sixth Street to Washington. Ableman said $410,000 of that is paid for by a Transportation Improvement Board grant, with the city providing the rest.

“We’re looking at bidding that project in April, awarding it in May and proceeding with construction in mid-June,” Ableman said.

The rest is grinding and paving work on several residential streets: Cherry Tree Court, West Sixth Street from Washington to Union, North Fifth Street from Oakland to Annie Place, Alki and Front streets and some of Normal Park Road.

“We’ll do that (Normal Park Road) from Betz to about half way,” Ableman said.

The Light Department will also be busy, beginning with another power pole and wire replacement project. Last year, the city awarded a contract to DJ’s Electric for replacing of power poles and wire between Fourth and Seventh streets.

That project came in at over $170,000, Light Director Steve Boorman said. This year’s pole and wire replacement project is estimated at $200,000 – $250,000; mainly Boorman said because the area it’s scheduled for — from the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad tracks to Fourth Street and from Washington to K Street — contains some three-phase power, whereas last year’s project was single-phase.

“Not all of that area, but that’s the area it’s in,” Boorman added.

Department crews will also be doing some power pole replacement, with an outside firm doing the testing to determine rot and other conditions and Cheney crews doing the replacement. Boorman said there are about 1,700 power poles in the city’s system; serving 5,500 customers.

“The bid is written so we can test so many and then allow time for change out,” he added.

Next week in part two, public projects not being undertaken by the city of Cheney and private construction will be examined.

John McCallum can be reached at


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