Oak Creek prepares to celebrate as construction project nears end of road
David Bonfiglio let out a loud, “Yipee!” when asked how he feels now that the end of one of Oak Creek’s largest construction projects in recent memory is in sight.
“When you have these needed projects that are whatever, like every 50 years, you have to stop to do them,” said Bonfiglio, who has owned and operated the Oak Creek Drug Store for 22 years. “But, when you do them, boy are they painful. I’m guessing, but I bet we are 30 percent off for the whole store, and when you look at my walk-in-trade, I would say about 70 percent. I’m extremely excited that they are getting done — they have done a great job, it looks awesome and I think it is going to be a positive moving forward, as far as when people are driving through town. More of them, hopefully, will stop, because it looks nicer, it looks cleaner. Those are all positive things that, hopefully, will pay going forward. It’s been a long summer.”
It is only fitting that, on the final holiday weekend of that long summer, the town will host a Main Street Dedication and thank you ceremony at 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 1. The event will include the dedication and a few brief remarks at 5 p.m. at 100 East Main Street, followed by light appetizers and a cash beer and wine bar from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., sponsored by the Oak Creek Labor Day Committee and Oak Creek Board of Trustees.
Friday’s event will kick off a weekend of events that will include pancake breakfasts, a cribbage tournament, a fishing derby, a car show, free family fun day, museum tours, bingo, a barbecue cook-off, a corn hole tournament, a horseshoe tournament and an archery contest. The celebration will reach a peak Monday, with a running race, a Labor Day parade, field games, a volleyball tournament and a greased pole climbing contest. For a complete schedule of events visit facebook.com/oak-creek-labor-day-2017-260609583958313.
“They are striping the road today,” Mary Alice Page-Allen, Oak Creek administrator and clerk, said Wednesday. “We had Labor Day weekend on our radar screen, and we wanted this project to be done for Labor Day. We had contingencies in place in case something happened, but these guys have rocked and rolled to get this completed.”
The project is expected to be completed in time for the big celebration, but a few details may still need to be wrapped up after the long holiday weekend. Labor Day is one of the biggest holidays of the year in Oak Creek, as the town — and folks from nearby communities — come to celebrate the town’s rich and long labor history.
“We would have done the parade from west to east instead of east to west, and we would have done it on Nancy Crawford Boulevard and staged all Labor Day events from Decker Park,” Page-Allen said. “Instead, we are able to follow our typical Labor Day weekend schedule. We start the events in downtown on Friday evening, with the Watering Hole Walk, which will follow the main street dedication. We have sent out invitations to everybody that had been involved, or has suffered. Hopefully, we have a good turnout for the dedications. It’s a good opportunity to say, ‘Thank you'” for all the patience and support and “for a great job done.”
The project, which began April 17, was a $3.5 million improvement project. Two million dollars came from Energy Impact Funds, and another $1 million came from a loan from the State Revolving Fund. The town also kicked in half a million dollars in matching funds.
“The main driver of this was our failing water main line down through that area,” Page-Allen said. “It was ductile iron placed in hot soils, and we have replaced it and upsized it.”
Page-Allen said the idea was to upgrade the system so it will work better now and in the future.
“It’s the backbone of our distribution system,” she said. “While we were in there, we took a dig once approach, a complete street approach.”
The improvements include new water and sewer service lines; new curbs, gutters and sidewalks; and new storm sewers. Before it is finished, there will be new uprights for new lights, plus 3,800 linear feet of blank conduit, whichPage-Allen said will lay a true foundation for a downtown business district revitalization
“From all indications, we have been able to stay within our budget and our timeline,” she said. “We successfully and beautifully completed a great project for our town.”
But, the project didn’t come without it’s share of headaches for many of the businesses located on main street.
Rachel Green, owner of Rachel’s Smokin’ BBQ & Cafe, can’t wait for the day there are no crews, signs or equipment on Main Street in Oak Creek.
“The whole summer season is gone, and it’s been a rough summer,” Green said.
Green, who has operated the restaurant on Main Street for four years, said she was thankful for the people who came out and supported her through the construction. Without them, she said, she could not have made it.
“Because of the way traffic was laid out, it was really tough to figure out how to get to us,” she said. “Thank God, we had certain people who came in, even when it wasn’t easy to find the way.”
Green said she hopes many people will come to Oak Creek this weekend to take part in the annual celebration. She is optimistic that might give her business a boost, as well as create momentum she can carry forward into hunting season.
“Labor Day is normally the last hurrah,” Green said.
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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