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Surprises lurk under streets of Vail Village

Scott N. Miller
Vail Daily/Don Clark Bill Reese operates an excavator for Western Slope Utilities Thursday in Vail Village.
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No one has found buried treasure or a dead body under the streets of Vail Village – at least not yet – but plenty of surprises still lurk.

Bill Reese has found a lot of those surprises. Fortunately, none of them have slowed the village streetscape project now entering its second month of work.



Reese, an excavator operator for Breckenridge-based Western Slope Utilities, has dug up lower Bridge Street, one of the oldest spots in Vail.

“There are plenty of surprises down there,” Reese said. “Mostly electric lines that aren’t in conduits. Some of them weren’t hooked to anything.”



Despite the number of surprises several feet under the street, the excavation work has yet to sever a line to any of the buildings there. That fact has left project managers just a little short of amazed.

“It’s amazing to watch the guy,” said Scott Bluhm, who’s managing the project for the town of Vail. “He’ll dig, then he’ll stop, get a guy in there and he’ll find something.”

While that sounds a bit like Reese has a sixth sense for underground trouble, that’s only partly true. “Some of it is feel,” Reese said. “But some of it is reading the trench, seeing where somebody else has dug.”



That’s the sort of knack that comes with experience. Reese has been in the business for almost 25 years. He’s spent the last dozen or so with Western Slope Utilities.

Nearly as important, though, is the crew helping Reese out. “I’ve got four guys now I wouldn’t trade for anything,” Reese said. “They’ll really get in there and scratch around till they find something.”

There’s plenty to find.

At a recent construction update for village merchants about the streetscape project, Mike Staughton, owner of the Gallery Building that contains Russell’s restaurant, urged someone to contact him before digging near one side of the building.

“Please don’t cut the power to my sump pump,” he said. “That’s what keeps my building from floating away this time of year.”

Staughton has owned the 1966-vintage building for several years, so he has a pretty good idea of where all the lines are buried, but there’s stuff under the streets that only pops into memory once it pops back up.

“Apparently there was a guy who wanted to run sound through the village years ago,” Bluhm said. “He put a bunch of wire in some garden hose and buried it. We found the hose.”

The obvious question, though, is whether Reese has ever found anything really creepy in his years of digging. “No! And I never want to, either,” he said with a nervous laugh.

Of course, the fact he wants nothing to do with creepy stuff like human skeletons leaves him open to his share of good-natured ribbing.

Pointing toward the base of Vail Mountain, Reese said one of the men who helped build the village told him a story about a house that used to be there.

“I guess there used to be a bunch of hooligans living there, and they told me they wouldn’t be surprised if there was somebody buried up there,” Reese said. “I sure hope not.”


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