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Crews work on installing new bricks on Market Street in Marion on Thursday afternoon.

MARION — Work is underway to replace the brick surface on South Market Street and sidewalks along both sides of the street. The work area is just south of the entrance to Marion Carnegie Library parking lot.

Samantha Cativera, a librarian with the Marion Carnegie Library, said patrons have voiced “lots of opinions” about the street work, as well as their difficulty getting into the parking lot. Some think the street should have been covered with asphalt. Others like the brick.

“I’m glad they are putting brick back down. I think it will look nice,” Cativera said.

Outside, some people stopped to watch the workers lay brick.

Dan King, project supervisor for E.T. Simonds, was measuring brick to make sure everything was lining up correctly.

“We are checking every five rows and have to make adjustments,” King said.

This is E.T. Simonds first street-paving project using brick. When the project is complete, workers will have paved 1,056 feet of street with 126,000 bricks.

“This might be the first road bricked in Southern Illinois in 100 years,” King said.

Originally the project was projected was predicted to take 11 days, but several variables have slowed progress. One had to do with the way the bricks were shipped. Workers are laying two different styles of bricks and had to sort them.

The other is the weather. The sand between the bricks is a polymer that turns to wet when water is applied. The rain causes the gel to cover the surface of the bricks with what King described as a slimy film. Once it sets, workers will pressure wash the street to remove the residue.

King said the process has been slower than anticipated.

“It’s very time consuming — a little more than expected,” King said.

It started with the removal of the old brick surface. Workers have removed brick that is believed to be more than 100 years old.

When Rece Roper heard about the street project last year, he had an idea that would recycle the brick and meet the requirements of a project assigned by his English teacher Elizabeth Hileman.

“It had to something you could show progress,” Roper said.

Roper did not know if the project would be possible, but he decided to try. His idea was to sell bricks to be engraved and set in bands of five bricks in the sidewalk.

“He took a part of the past and put it to use in the present to create something that will be here in the future,” Tom Roper, Rece’s dad, said.

The first idea was to sell 56 bricks, one for each year Mayor Robert Butler has served as mayor of Marion. The mayor and City Council thought there would be more people who would purchase a brick, so they raised the number.

Rece Roper sold 102 bricks. Tom Roper said some of the bricks are stamped on back with “Clinton Manufacturing,” the company who made the bricks. To fill in, the bricks will be set so that mark shows.

The original project draft called for the proceeds of the brick sales to be donated back to the city to defray the cost of the project. The City Council instead suggested Rece donate the proceeds to the local charity of his choice. Deciding where to donate the money may be the hardest part of the project.

“It was actually harder than I thought it would be,” Rece said. “There are a lot of different local charities.”

He may end up splitting the funds between two or more organizations.

“He’s done a really great job with the project. It is good for him to go to the city council meetings and present his project and get to know people in the community,” Tom Roper said.

“I think it’s awesome. I didn’t know if the project would be accepted, and it will finally be set in stone or set in sidewalk,” Rece Roper said.

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Reporter

Marilyn Halstead is a reporter covering Williamson County.

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