COLUMBIANA Sewer work leaves a mess in its wake

Residents are fed up and want their quiet neighborhood to return to normal.
COLUMBIANA -- The day the bulldozers rolled in, Ken Field saved the Japanese maple sapling at the corner of his lot by standing over it with a hammer.
Much of the other landscaping on his property, however, was felled in the midst of a city sewer project. Some trees between his home and that of neighbors Bill and JoAnne Lavender were in the city's right-of-way. Other trees and shrubs were not.
"They said they'll replace the trees, but they can't give me 30-year-old trees," Field said. "More than 30 years of work was gone in 30 minutes."
Field, a retired GM Lordstown Assembly Plant manager, has lived on North West Street since 1969. He reared a family there and watched a new generation move into the neighborhood and begin their own families. Now he just wants the solace of his quiet, dead-end street to be returned.
The crews from Blacktop Pavers of Carrollton disconnected his phone and cable television wires that were in the way of their equipment.
"You know how they disconnected them?" he said. "They cut them." It was several days before both services were restored, he said.
Complaints: The nearly $500,000 unfinished project that began in January includes replacing sewer lines on Pearl and North West streets. Several residents voiced their displeasure at council last week, some with shouts.
Silt and other debris clogging the new sewer line, periodic loss of water and electric service, flooded yards and basements and uncovered catch basins are also among the residents' complaints.
The crews from Blacktop Pavers pulled out during wet weather a month ago, taking their equipment with them. Workers left a mess and have not returned, they said.
City Manager Keith Chamberlin said the contractor pulled out because of the wet conditions. North West Street residents don't believe they plan to return.
"It's either mud or dust," Lavender said. She and her husband have owned their North West Street home 15 years.
"Nothing is clean," she said, wiping a thick layer of dust from an outside windowsill with her index finger. "Maybe I'm too picky, but I like to keep a clean house. After it rained, I had to use a snow shovel to move the dirt off the driveway before I could hose it off."
Lavender said the workers dug so close to her house, less than 6 feet, she's concerned about the foundation. She tore up new carpet in her finished basement after sewage backed up. Chamberlin has said that was caused by debris in the new sewer line.
Since the project began, cracks have appeared in the basement floor, and drywall and baseboard along one wall are loose.
Despite the pile of dirt and debris, including a large manhole cover on her own lawn, Lavender expressed sympathy for her neighbors.
"The people across the street, that pipe's been laying there for weeks," she said. "They had so much water in their back yard they couldn't mow.
"Ken spends a lot of time in the yard," she said. "We call him the man who loves to mow his grass. He's retired, and working in the yard is what they love to do. I was just sick watching it all go. I think his wife cried."
No one answered the phone when The Vindicator made several phone calls to Blacktop Pavers last week. Lavender and other residents said they also made unsuccessful calls to the company, usually reaching an answering machine.
Inspecting: Chamberlin and service Director Jay Groner are inspecting the work. Chamberlin said the city is withholding payment of 8 percent of the project cost, as stated in the contract.
Two residents at last week's meeting told Chamberlin to contact Blacktop Pavers' bond company. He said he has not done so because Blacktop Pavers has not broken the contract. The contractors said the work would be completed by the end of May, he said.
The project to replace sewer lines on North Pearl Street is needed because of infiltration of storm water into the sewage system, Chamberlin said. The old sewer line was cracked in several places, allowing storm water in, he said.
Lavender, Field and other residents upset by the project said they understand the need for the sewer line replacement. They just want someone to finish the job and clean up the mess.

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