Aging infrastructure


Second homeowner in Victoria blames cracked foundation, warped house on sewer project

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

Last month I wrote about the ordeal of Pete and Ethel Nelson, who are battling the Metropolitan Council over who will pay to repair their home and yard in the aftermath of an immense sewer reconstruction project. The start of the next phase of the sewer upgrade has been a contentious issue before the Victoria City Council, with council member Kim Roden putting the Met Council’s feet to the fire about improving the way it responds to property owners’ claims of collateral damage. Today, Roden told me she’s pressuring the regional government to take a second look at the struggle of another Victoria property owner, Gary Corwin.

Corwin, a pilot for the airline formerly known as Northwest, has lived on Virginia Shores Circle with his family since 1988. He told Whistleblower that the excavation for the sewer shifted the footings under his deck, cracked his foundation and warped his house to the point that windows and doors don’t open and close. “You can tell it looked like an earthquake,” he said. He estimates the damage at $200,000 to $250,000.

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Will sewer project flow better in next phase? Victoria council member says she’ll wait and see

Friday, June 26th, 2009

peteethelnelson.jpgPete Nelson, photographed with his wife Ethel by my colleague Kyndell Harkness, reported a stream of driveby gawkers on Smithtown Terrace after my Sunday story about his efforts to get the Metropolitan Council to pay for fixing damage to his property from a $7 million sewer project. A day later, Met Council staff faced some skeptical questions from the Victoria City Council, which is scheduled to vote July 13 on allowing the project‘s next phase. That involves digging a tunnel 100 feet underground to accommodate a 6-foot-diameter sewer to serve the Victoria, Waconia and St. Bonifacius area.

Kim Roden is the council member who has been most publicly critical about the Met Council’s behavior toward property owners with gripes about its sewer project.

“I don’t want to stop them. I want to see the project go forward,” Roden told me earlier this week. “I need to know what’s going to change so we don’t have a mess… [At Monday's meeting] I told these guys, you may think of me from the council woman from hell, but I got to tell you something, you guys have just totally messed this up.”

Bonnie Kollodge, a Met Council spokeswoman, told me in an email that the Met Council Environmental Services “is refining its proposed written procedure pertaining to construction related concerns and claims. Staff plan to discuss with Victoria staff prior to transmitting a proposed procedure to the City Council as part of amending our cooperative agreement.”

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Ferries, anyone?

Friday, April 25th, 2008

lowryclosing.jpgAt 10 a.m. Friday, the decrepit Lowry Avenue Bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis closed forever to traffic. An hour earlier, on the other side of town, the state closed the 46th Street bridge that spans the widening urban trench of 35W. The 50th Street bridge over 35W is still more air than concrete. Down in Richfield and Bloomington, the 76th Street bridge shuts down on Monday for six months and the American Boulevard overpass is already closed, the victim of improper roadbed fill. Further up the Mississippi in St. Cloud, the DeSoto Bridge was shut down abruptly in March because of warped gusset plates and will soon be demolished. And of course, it will be months before Minneapolis traffic can once again cross the Mississippi on 35W. The story’s not much better for those on foot: a little footbridge over railroad tracks in Dinkytown was shut down in March, and one of my favorite bridges, the 78-year-old pedestrian bridge that links Bryant Avenue over Minnehaha Creek, had plywood barriers installed on either end this month because of crumbling concrete supports and rusty bolts.

My diligent colleague Roadguy has been busy chronicling these disappearing bridges, and reports this morning that a Hennepin County Sheriff’s squad car with its flashers on was guarding the newly-abandoned Lowry Bridge.

If I’ve missed any missing bridges, please alert Roadguy.

Crumbling walls of government

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

When a flushing toilet drowns out important meetings, and the desks of police officers are showered with water from a busted pipe, it’s time for Richfield taxpayers to spend $21 million for a new City Hall, Mary Jane Smetanka reports Wednesday.

To the north, our Anoka County correspondent, Paul Levy, has observed similar hazards of civil service.

Anoka County Government CenterWorking in the Anoka County government center has been an exercise in endurance lately. Little is swept under the rug – not with the carpet being torn up, displacing files and work stations on the building’s fourth floor.

The carpet should be in place by month’s end, long after workers recover from the smell of fresh tar that was placed on the roof of the seven-story building that houses the county courthouse and government offices.

“The smell is nauseating,” Spencer Pierce, manager of the county’s environmental services, said Wednesday. “I believe in an open door policy anyway. But this afternoon, I’m keeping my door open out of necessity.”

County Commissioner Dan Erhart didn’t think the tar on the roof or installation of new carpet was anything more than usual maintenance. But the water pipe that burst on the seventh floor last week was a different matter.

“No, that’s a mess,” he said. “You don’t plan for that.”

The building is hardly falling apart. Other than the burst pipe, which was repaired, the maintenance was all about keeping the building habitable, rather than uninhabitable.