WILMINGTON — Clinton County commissioners have taken action to create a reserve account to start setting aside $250,000 every year for a costly project to deal with a deteriorating century-old tunnel under Courthouse Square.
The mostly concrete tunnel is about six feet tall and 14 to 16 feet wide. It runs under the county parking lot and beneath the southwest lawn of the city block upon which the 102-year-old courthouse sits.
The tunnel (or culvert) has been examined, and though its condition is “in no way an imminent problem,” said Clinton County Engineer Jeff Linkous, it is at a point to be on the radar so to speak and to financially prepare for.
The project is expected to involve both rehabilitation and replacement aspects, as well as excavation labor of digging and opening up, he said.
A projected total cost is not currently tied down to a tight number for the future project, said Linkous, but it can be said with confidence to be at least $1 million and probably more. The engineer was at a conference Thursday and did not have access to a consultant’s estimates on cost per foot.
The waterway tunnel does not run under either the courthouse building itself or the Veterans Service Commission facility — the old jail — that are located on the downtown block.
Clinton County commissioners want to be proactive and have money in reserve for the expensive project rather than wait until the 11th hour and try to figure out how to cover the costs, said Clinton County Commissioners President Mike McCarty.
McCarty said this week he anticipates the project will be taken up in three to five years.
Culverts prevent waterlogging, flooding, and erosion, and allow water to flow its natural course. There also are long-range safety considerations for this project, said commissioners.
The county is financially responsible for the upkeep of the tunnel because it’s under county-owned property. The tunnel is inspected annually, said Linkous.
Under Courthouse Square, the tunnel goes from just north of the veterans service building, and then curves under the courthouse parking lot and curves again to the southwest corner of the block (which faces Xidas Park).
According to a News Journal archive article from 1919 written for the courthouse’s opening, one challenge for the chosen site was that “across the site ran a small stream, for years referred to by Wilmingtonians as ‘Shadagee’.” The rerouting of the stream was a feat of civil engineering, the article stated.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.