OMRO, Wis. — When Sarah Benson answered the phone, she was preparing for the worst.

“OK, so I thought you were gonna say the money wasn’t going for these roads,” said Benson, a licensed practical nurse at the Omro Care Center. “I was like, ‘What?’”

The roads surrounding the senior care facility probably finish second to patients as the chief concern for the employees who go there daily.

“There’s some huge dips as you drive down West Larabee that you actually have to kind of avoid with your car,” Benson said. “So if another car is coming toward you, you kind of have to drive through these big — like a big divot in the road. I don’t know, like a hole almost. It’s not good for your car.”

But all the Chevys and Toyotas and Fords in town, along with the people who drive them, received some welcome news last week when the City of Omro was awarded a $1 million Community Development Block Grant from the Wisconsin Department of Administration. The grant will allow the city to conduct utility improvements and street reconstruction for three of the most unloved roads in town: West Larabee, Grant Avenue and Michigan Street. 

“Basically that area, because it’s older, we’re going to replace the old clay and concrete pipe, the infrastructure underneath,” said City of Omro Director of Community and Economic Development Stephanie Kromm regarding the grant.

“There’s a cast iron water main. It dates back to the 1950s. They’re going to install storm sewer gutters and expand the sidewalks because over there, the sidewalks, they’re not regulation; they get covered up by the trees and the bushes. So it’s definitely time,” Kromm added.

Kromm said the grant will cover half the cost of the project. She said if they can’t secure any more outside money, the rest will likely come from a road maintenance/repair fund that comes from city taxes.

“I mean, just to even kind of clean up the area and just improve the feel, the atmosphere and environment — it’s huge,” said Kromm. “You want to take pride in where you live and I think being able to have roads, just to be able to feel safe driving on your road and not feel like ‘Oh, I’ve got to dodge that pothole and I’ve got to watch out for that.’ It’s huge.”

A timetable for starting the project has yet to be set in stone. But knowing improvements are that much closer has made some Omro residents eager for road construction season.

“Everybody in this city, I think, is really excited,” said Benson. “And the staff is for sure. We won’t have to be going through flooding and all different things all the time.”

Benson said they have a housekeeper that walks to the center from her house and has to walk on the road because the sidewalks are “impassable.” During the winter, she said, they’re all full of snow and ice, or big puddles of water.

“You can’t walk on the sidewalks at all after it’s rained on West Larabee. It will be good for a lot of people here,” Benson said.


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