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City rejected bid to fix century old pipe that damaged Orpheum Theatre because of cost

Published: Jun. 23, 2022 at 6:06 PM CDT
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SIOUX CITY (KTIV) - A more than century-old pipe burst outside the Orpheum Theatre, this week, caused damage to downtown buildings, and called into question Sioux City’s process for replacing aging infrastructure.

“So the city needs to get it fixed. It’s ridiculous that it’s not fixed. And I mean, I don’t know any block anywhere in Sioux City that’s had more water main breaks in this block, right? And it’s not like we didn’t invest a lot in this block as a community,” said Dave Bernstein, the president of the non-profit that owns the Orpheum Theatre.

The city is trying to drive more people downtown through apartments entertainment and restaurants but that’s hard to do when some of the infrastructure and below ground hasn’t been changed since the city was founded.

Alex Watters is a city council member who sits on the public works committee. He says city staff recommended the city replace 1% of its entire infrastructure every year. But right now, Sioux City only replaces 0.2%.

“But at the end of the day, we don’t have enough money to do at all. So we want to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to attract new businesses, new people and new companies that will generate that tax revenue, right. But we also got to look at where we’re spending our dollars,” said Watters.

As for the pipe that broke, experts say it could be up to 136 years old. It’s made of cast iron, a material that’s two generations outdated. There is a plan to bid out the project, but a past bid was rejected for being almost $1 million over budget.

“Our estimate was $1.5 million. The bid came in at almost $2.4 million. Okay? So it’s not prudent to use the taxpayers money in that fashion,” said Gordon Phair, Sioux City engineer.

Officials hope the most degraded part of the pipe, the part closest to the theater, will be fixed by fall. But that will depend on the new bids.

And the Orpheum Theatre? It is back open after workers patched the pipel.

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