Safety Issues

Any governments’ priority should be to protect and provide for its’ citizens.

I have witnessed numerous examples just this year where the city has acted contrary to the safety and protection of the people of Elk Ridge.

Safe practices when allowing contractors to work in our streets is a key component of safety in our city.

I would like to share some observations I have had of unsafe practices from the perspective of someone that coordinated hundreds of right-of-way projects in dozens of cities. I know the rules and practices that cities demanded from us when working in their streets and none of these cities would have tolerated the manner of work I have witnessed around our home this year.

City code references permitting for work in the right-of-way, but it has not been implemented or enforced.

In August of this year, the uphill lane of Elk Ridge Drive from the round-about to Olympic Ln was barricaded off and traffic was detoured around the Care Center for 6 days to complete a small paving project. Closing roads and detouring traffic should always be the last resort. Keeping a lane open and using flaggers is the safer alternative.

If I am elected, this is how that same project would have been managed. The contractor would have applied for a right-of-way permit. They would include their licensing and insurance naming the city as an additional insured. If they would have applied for a week permit with a lane closure and detour, it would have been denied. The city would have issued a permit with time restrictions from 9am to 4pm requiring flaggers and no detour. This time restriction allows commuters time to get to work before being impeded by traffic control, as well as having the project completed and paved prior to returning home. This gives the contractor plenty of time to saw cut and remove the pavement, prep and compact for the new pavement, and then place the pavement.

Instead of 144 hours of detouring traffic onto residential roads where small children are unaccustomed to traffic being diverted in front of their homes, a 7-hour “no detour” option could have been implemented and enforced. The rules are already in place. It is a simple matter of managing the contractors and demanding safe practices rather than allowing the contractors to inconvenience all of us and allow unsafe practices.

Any single water or sewer service work in the road would follow the same requirements and time restrictions.

Earlier this summer on our street, which is a dead end, a neighbor was driving home and was stopped by a contractor working in the road. An open trench had been dug across the entire road. When they asked how they could get to their home the contractor said, “sorry you can’t get through.” When this was explained to me, I assumed it must have been an emergency – broken water or gas leak? Nope – it was a planned new sewer line service. I called the city assuming they were unaware and would be shocked. Nope again! They told me they were aware of the trench and they were working with the contractor to divert traffic onto the city sidewalk and private property. At this point, it was clear that the city had no intention of improving their practices in the right-of-way. This trench and four others were all backfilled with gravel and left unpaved for over a month. When I complained about this, I was told the contractor still had one more service to install and then they would patch all of them together. When I expressed my unbelief at that, I was also told “that is the way it is done here”, “it’s not a County Road” and “we do this for the convenience of the developer”. The paver only had to make one trip – thus saving the developer money – while the entire neighborhood most likely spent a small fortune on alignments for their cars.

Doing things for the “convenience of the developer” not only reveals the backward priorities of the city, but is not a good look from an ethical standpoint. If the city is doing things for the convenience of the developer a reasonable person would deduct that it is quite possible developers may be doing something for city officials – whether or not that is the case.

Part of the beauty of Elk Ridge is all of the hills and elevation changes that surround us. When it comes to construction, hillside excavation and construction is not just a little harder than flat areas, it is exponentially more challenging and complicated and therefore the planning and execution of building and developing on slopes demands more planning. In the earlier years of Elk Ridge, the leaders of the City decided sidewalks, curb and gutter, and storm drains were not desirable features. Later, the leaders changed their minds and decided these features were desirable. As a result, we have several areas in the city that are prone to flooding and need fixed. There are many areas where curbing ends and the run-off undermines the roadway or flows uncontrolled downhill.

Our city code 10-12-34 states “No property of 30% or more slope shall be incorporated as part of the designated building area of any building” Incidentally, this is more than a city code, it is a federal law governed by MSHA, the federal agency that sets regulations for safe hillside excavation and for mining operations. The new public works building violated this law in excavating out a hillside with a slope of greater than 30%.

You can see the thousands of yards of ex-out they removed from the hillside and piled on the west property line of the city property on Goosenest. You can tell where kids (I’m assuming) have been climbing up and down this giant pile of dirt. The city has not required the contractor to fence off this work site, or even attempt to put up warning signs or caution tape. The view from Goosenest only tells part of the story. The neighbors at the top of the hill that was excavated is 5 doors down from me. The view of this construction site from their backyard is frightening (see photos above). The contractors have left a sheer drop-off of over 20’. The excavation started in February and has still not been backfilled as of September.

This same building could have been built on a flatter area for a fraction of the cost and a fraction of the liability.

Most cities announce their new public buildings to the public. In this case, not even the adjoining neighbor received notice. The bid package should have been put out for public bid. All of the bids received should be disclosed to the public as well. The winning bidder should be vetted before awarding the contract. The city should then hold a pre-construction meeting on site to address safety concerns and the manner of workmanship required. There should be language in the contract between the city and the contractor stating a time frame for completion and penalties for exceeding the schedule. There should be a clause stating that the city has the right to stop the work at any time if safety issues or quality of the work comes into question. The contract should also state that the city has the right after proper notice to have others fix the issues and hold the contractor responsible for the costs to remedy the defects. It is possible that these steps were taken, but if so, why has the city allowed unsafe practices, allowed the work to stall for over 7 months and counting, and allow damage to be done to private property owners?

To summarize, these are all incidents that have occurred this year near my home. We don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Best practices are well known and can easily be implemented. We need to change the priorities of the city. These best practices I have described above will not add any cost to the city, but will improve the safety and well-being of everyone.

This beautiful area and the exceptional people of Elk Ridge deserve a city government that will protect and serve them.

If you agree, I ask for your vote and support.

Please email me if you have any questions or suggestions or if you would like to personally endorse me by having a sign placed in your yard