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Property owners weigh in on easement for sewer overhaul

November 14, 2012
By DAVID ALEXANDER - Staff Writer (dalexander@timesrepublican.com) , Times-Republican

Bad experience has caused a couple of Marshalltown residents affected by the construction of a sewer overflow interceptor to have concerns about the welfare of their properties.

At a special meeting following the city council meeting Monday night, Fox Engineering and members of the Marshalltown City Council spoke to the public, which included some of the property owners the easement acquisitions will affect. The interceptors will catch backflow into houses and discharge into nearby streams.

Darrel Gaskill and his neighbor John Craft both live on North Fifth Street Place. They are leery of the DNR mandated project.

Article Photos

T-R PHOTO BY DAVID ALEXANDER
Darrel Gaskill points to where he says Fox Engineering crews previously damaged his sewer line saddling him with a $7,500 bill to repair it, at his home on North Fifth Street Place. Gaskill is skeptical of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources mandated interceptor project slated to get underway in 2013.

"I am not buying anything they say," Gaskill said. "I am going to be a skeptic I can't stop them, but I can raise hell."

That's because the last time Fox Engineering collaborated with the city to do sewer line work, heavy equipment hauled onto his property during construction crushed his pipe and saddled Gaskill with a $7,500 bill for the damage.

The company and the city denied liability, he said, but still mandated that he pay to install an additional 150 feet of superfluous line because the code required the line to extend all the way to his house.

Scott Renaud, project manager with Fox Engineering, said Gaskill's situation should have never happened. Regulations as to how to proceed with easement acquisitions have changed in the last 10 years.

"Once the project is done, everything goes back to what it was," he said.

Curt Ward, city attorney, said that the city will aim to minimize the impact to residents, and to the extent that it cannot do so, the city will compensate them accordingly.

The construction of two interceptors - the Turner Street Force Main and Iowa River Interceptor - will take between six and nine months. Construction on the Iowa River Interceptor will begin between February and June 2013; construction on the Turner Street Force Main will start between April and July 2013.

Upfront compensation for easements is 10 percent of the property's value for temporary, access, and existing easements and 50 percent of the property value for permanent easements.

Using the existing pipe in which Fox Engineering installed lining saves between $1.5 and $2 million, Renaud said. About 30 parcels of land will be affected by the construction.

However, negotiations as to compensation have yet to get underway.

That's because the city must first acquire the rights to go onto the property before discussing the specifics of compensation, Ward said.

"We want everyone to be treated fairly," he said. "We have to do this project, but we want to do it fairly."

Renaud said his company would try to minimize the amount of trees cut down and would restore lawns to their original conditions, but would not replant any trees unless the Iowa Corp of Engineers required it.

Last time around, Craft said Fox Engineering cut down one of his trees and made no effort to replace it.

Craft said when Fox Engineering lined the sewer pipes more than 10 years ago, whoever was in charge of removing foliage cut from trees during construction failed to remove the debris. During the next heavy rain, those branches clogged the storm drains.

And Craft said this isn't the first time he has had to deal with the city falling short. Based on his experience with projects on Nicholas Drive, West Merle Hibbs Boulevard, Southridge Road and Campbell Drive, he too is skeptical.

"All their promises fall on deaf ears. At this point, they will promise you the world. They never follow up on the job," he said. "Once you take that money you have given them permission to do whatever they want."

During the previous debacle, Gaskill said the company made no effort ahead of time to communicate with him. At least this time the project managers are working with him and listening to his concerns, which he said allays his concerns slightly.

The city has video recorded the length of the pipes affected by construction so it can compare the condition of the pipes. That way, should damage occur, the city has documentation of what the pipes looked like before construction.

Ward and Renaud both stressed the city and Fox Engineering's willingness to work with property owners to ensure their concerns are heard and problems are minimized.

Gaskill and Craft both said they would like the city to look at damage caused after construction and compensate the property owners accordingly instead of offering money in advance. But Ward said the city must first get permission to do the construction, and part of that is compensating the owners prior to starting the work.

The city will further compensate residents should damage occur, but the upfront compensation is merely for the inconvenience to the owners, Ward said.

"I don't care about being compensated up front," Gaskill said. "I just want to be whole when they leave."

A public meeting will be held 5:30 p.m. Nov. 26 in the Council Chambers, 10 W. State. St. Property negotiations and the contract are scheduled to begin Dec. 3.

A total project cost was unavailable at press time.

 
 

 

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