NORTH BENNINGTON -- Construction in North Bennington took a strange turn recently, when workers uncovered a cistern that wasn't in the town plans.
The construction, which is on the intersection of Bank Street and Main Street, was halted so that experts could visit the site and determine exactly what they were dealing with. As of Wednesday, the crews were cleared to fill in the cistern and continue - albeit more carefully.
"We don't really know what else might be down there," said North Bennington Highway Superintendent Normand LeBlanc. The running theory is that the cistern was used for fire suppression for the nearby bank in the 1800s.
The construction is the result of a federal enhancement project that the village has been working on for 11 years. The construction was delayed when a nearby water pipeline, which had been installed in the 1920s, needed to be replaced to meet the program guidelines. Construction on the intersection itself was originally scheduled to begin the second week of July, but further delays pushed the start date to the second week of September. Construction was delayed by a few days because of the discovery of the cistern, and will be slowed as they make sure they've filled it in completely, but LeBlanc is still confident in their goal of having everything paved by Nov. 1.
"It started off as a very simple thing, to add green space and sidewalks, make it prettier," said David Monks, vice-chairman of the Village of North Bennington's board of trustees.
The project will add grass and sidewalks to all four corners of the intersection, as well as two streetlights that are being recycled from Bennington. On Bank Street, there will be mountable curves to aids trucks in making the turn off of Main Street.
Some blueprints did include a cistern under Main Street, but the one workers found was under Bank Street.
"Here's hoping we don't find another there," said LeBlanc. The North Bennington Highway Department has worked with the Bennington Sewer Department for the duration of the project.
The construction is on one of the busiest intersections in the village, as Bank Street and Main Street are both part of Route 67, a common truck route.
Asked about the effect the construction is having on local businesses, LeBlanc said, "We've tried to be very conscientious of local business. We've put out signs, telling people that the businesses are still open. The bank is undergoing construction right now, but when they were open, they had no problem letting people use their driveway. And we've made sure, for all these businesses, that at least one of their driveways has been accessible at a time."
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB