Downtown Paris Aerial.jpg

Sidewalks and the park around Culbertson Fountain were expanded, and parallel parking added around the inside of the square. Left-turn lanes were removed, bump outs were extended farther into intersections at street corners and new pavement markings were added to direct traffic.

A cistern dating back perhaps as much as 100 years underneath Bonham Street on the northwest corner of the square in downtown Paris is overflowing, causing an icy, rough spot in the roadway.

That’s the explanation Public Works Director Michael Smith gave to an inquiry about the situation late Wednesday afternoon.

Explaining cisterns exist underneath the pavement at every corner of the square, Smith said each is connected to roof drains on downtown buildings.

“What’s happening right now is snow is melting on the rooftops, and it is putting more water in the cistern than it can take,” Smith said. “As soon as it is safe to do so, we will pump the cisterns down, but I didn’t want to put someone out there under these icy conditions.”

Smith said at one time, water in cisterns was used by firefighters to put out fires in downtown buildings. When the overlay work was done during recent downtown infrastructure replacement, the lids were raised.

“This didn’t happen before because there was so much asphalt on top of them,” Smith said. “In fact, we didn’t even know they were there until we started replacing water and sewer lines.”

Mary Madewell is a staff writer for The Paris News. She can be reached at 903-785-6976 or at

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