Sewer restoration leaves stink

Colin Tiernan photos
Matt Miller points at the height difference between sections of fencing in his backyard. There are also areas at the bottom of the fence with gaps, where dirt was not properly tamped to eliminate spacing. 

Colin Tiernan

Matt Miller kicks over a mound of rocks in a space that used to be his yard. He and many of his neighbors are not happy with the mess they are left with when a sewer line replacement project was declared complete by the town.
“This is all road base, this is not even yard,” Miller said. “I had a nice yard before they drove through there.”
The Town of Glenrock hired 71 Construction to install a new sewer line between Grant and First streets. According to residents, that construction left their yards in significantly worse condition than when the project began, despite the fact that the town’s contract with 71 Construction states that yards be restored, within reason, to their original conditions.
“We knew, first of all, because there wasn’t an alleyway there, and this was a pretty comprehensive project, that we were going to have some problems,” Glenrock Town Mayor Doug Frank said. “That notwithstanding, the work that was done, generally, on the fencing, was poor workmanship.”
Connie Wood, who lives across from Miller, has experienced a host of issues, too.
“Our fences are all crooked. They haven’t replaced our grass,” Wood said. “My yard is no longer level.”
The lack of an alley between Grant and First made it impossible for the construction crews to access the sewer line without going through property owners’ lawns.
Before the construction, Miller’s and Wood’s properties had grass lawns and were divided by a chain link fence. Now, large sections of their yards are covered in unseeded, rocky dirt and the new wooden privacy fence is uneven and not flush to the ground.
In Miller’s yard, it appears the material used to replace the removed dirt is the same product used as a base when paving roads.
“My whole backyard, it’s harder than rock,” Miller said, gesturing toward the egg-sized stones, often gathered in small hills on the lumpy area where his grass used to be. “In my opinion, it needs to be rototilled up and re-done nice. What I’m being told is that they’re just going to walk in with a sprayer and spray all this (with hydroseed).”
Sprayed atop the current surface, Miller doubts any grass would survive. He understands that the crews needed to pass heavy equipment through his yard, but feels his lawn should be restored. Some property owners have seen their yards re-sodded.
Even the fencing workers, contracted by 71 Construction, told Miller that nothing would grow in the current dirt.
“I asked them (71) about it, and they said the fencer guys have gotta take care of it,” Miller said. “I talked to the fencer guys and they said, ‘Oh yeah, if you want topsoil and everything to grow nice you’ve gotta go get dirt,’ and I said, ‘I’m not the one who tore it up.’”
Miller contends the fence workers told him they were instructed by Construction 71 “to do the cheapest possible job.”
Wood said she heard the same thing, explaining that they told her, “‘71 just told us to give them dirt and a fence.’
“I said, ‘No, that ain’t gonna work.’”

For Miller, there are three key problems with the fence: It is wobbly, uneven and has space under the bottom. He fears his dog will get through that space.
Miller called attention to the issue at a town council meeting last week. He said he would have had no issues with the project if his yard had been restored properly.
“We were all pretty excited for the sewer line to come in,” Miller said, explaining that the area had experienced difficulty with tough tree roots damaging the old line.
Both Miller and Wood made clear that they don’t want anything fancy: They just want their yards restored to the way they were.
“I’m not asking for better, but I do want what they took from me,” Wood said. She also said that she had spent hundreds of dollars on landscaping along the fence and wants to be repaid for the destruction of that work. Miller says he is fully aware that construction projects come with a cost. He noted that tearing up his grass and sidewalk was “the price of business.”

71 Construction had difficulty completing the project within the contract terms. Because they missed the completion date, they are being fined $500 per day by the town until the project is completed. Frank said that 71 Construction will be meeting with town officials in the next few days. Representatives of 71 did not comment on the issue after being contacted by the Independent.
Even during the project, Miller noticed signs that the job was going slower than expected.
“It was three, four weeks (after they put in the sewer line) before we even saw one fence guy,” Miller said. “Don’t get me wrong, the fence guys are nice. They’re just doing their job.”

Miller and Wood mentioned that a handful of their neighbors have experienced similar issues. Miller said one neighbor has the ability to stick her hand through her fence, which is problematic because the fence is theoretically made of gapless wood boards. Another neighbor’s sprinkler system does not function properly anymore.
“Couple houses down, they said the only reason their fence looks nice is that the lady lives at home and she was on their case the whole time,” Miller said.
Frank, who visited the area with Building Inspector and Code Enforcement Officer Scott Gilbert, confirmed the problems extended to other neighbors.
“The work is not done properly and there are numerous remaining problems. We completely expect to see it corrected,” Frank said.
He made clear that because the project was bonded, the notice of final payment notice that ran in the Independent does not mean 71 Construction is off the hook. Frank also said that 71 has not yet received its final payment, although even if they had, the town has other means by which to hold the company accountable.
Miller appreciated Frank and Gilbert coming to look at his lawn, but thinks the town would do more if the project had been on government property.
“(Public works director Randy Rumpler) has passed the buck,” Miller said. Wood also took issue with the public works’ handling of the situation.
“Nothing against the town of Glenrock, but that guy (Public Works Director Randy Rumpler) pretty much just blew us off,” Wood said. “Every time we called, he told us to call Construction 71.”
The neighbors want their fence fixed and their yards restored before 71 leaves for good.
“I understand things happen, but we’re at the point where, they’re wrapped up and it seems like nobody’s around,” Miller said.
“I just want what they took from me,” Wood said. “And I plan on getting it even if I have to get an attorney.”


Glenrock Independent

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