City Council approves project to protect homes from flooding on 118th Avenue

November 1, 2012

By Christina Corrales-Toy

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The Newcastle City Council has approved a project that will help protect properties from flooding in the 8600 block of 118th Avenue Southeast.

The project, which calls for the installation of three catch basins and 325 feet of stormwater drainage pipe, will benefit four properties on the street and cost the city an estimated $52,000 to complete.

Resident Tim Thomson, whose home will benefit from the project, said his property has fallen victim to flooding in the past due to stormwater runoff from steady rains.

Public Works Director Mark Rigos brought the project before the council and advised them to approve the fix, which it did at its Sept. 18 meeting. He said the street was constructed decades ago, well before the city of Newcastle even existed, when contractors were not required to install catch basins or construct a proper drainage system for stormwater runoff.

The system will bring some relief to the homeowners, who are susceptible to flooding because of rain that flows off of the road and neighboring roofs.

“Not only is this public road generating stormwater when it rains because of the impervious surface, there’s also stormwater that sheet-flows from adjacent private properties onto 118th Avenue Southeast that contributes to the flooding,” Rigos said.

Thomson said he was happy with the city’s decision to approve the project, but he and many of his neighbors would still like to see improvements made to the street.

“I’m pleased with their decision at this point,” he said. “You know we still have a lot of work to do on our street, but it’s a good start.”

The street is narrow, Rigos said, with a width of only 12 to 15 feet in some places. It also does not have sidewalks.

“I’d like to see a widened road out there with curb, gutter and sidewalk on one side,” he said. “The preliminary cost for doing that from 84th Street to 88th Street is going to cost more than half a million dollars. There’s no getting around it. So, that’s kind of where that project is right now — it’s still in the design phase until the city has the money to do it.”

But before significant improvements are made to the street, and there is no telling when that will be, given the price and scope of the project, Rigos said the city would like to work with the Coal Creek Utility District to extend a sewer system in the neighborhood. About 45 homes are currently hooked up to onsite septic systems.

“The city would like to see public sewer extended into that neighborhood so that those septic drain fields can be decommissioned and the property owners would connect into public sewer,” he said. “That would be the city’s hope, so that we have less of a concern of water quality in that neighborhood.”

In addition, Rigos said he would like to see the sewer system figured out before major construction is done on the street.

“I just don’t want to construct a brand new road, curb, gutter and sidewalk, and then have to rip it up to put in sewer manholes, because we currently don’t know where those sewer manholes are going to be,” he said. “So, why don’t we plan for sewers first, start constructing the sewer system and then, down the road, when we know exactly where the utilities are going to be, then we would build the road, budget permitting.”

Shel Neufeld, a resident on the street, said he was frustrated by the lack of work the city has put into the road. He said there has been a project to improve the road listed on the city’s budget in the past, but as time went on, the council had to move the project out to later years because of budget constraints.

“It seems like our portion of the city has always been neglected,” he said.

At the Sept. 18 meeting, Councilman Steve Buri approved of the $52,000 fix, but acknowledged that there is more work to be done on the road.

“It’s not a full solution, obviously. It’s a partial solution that is long overdue and we may have to, over time, do this in a more piecemeal fashion, just owing to our budgetary challenges,” he said. “I think it’s a good fix.”

Councilman Bill Erxleben reluctantly supported the project. He said he feared that by taking on the project, the city would set a harmful precedent in fixing all stormwater problems no matter the source, at a time when the city doesn’t have the funds to do it.

“There’s a saying in law that hard cases make bad law, and this is a hard case, and I think it may make bad policy on stormwater and city’s responsibility, willingness or whatever to do something about it,” he said.

At the end of October, Rigos said the project was currently being designed, and depending on weather conditions, the city would like to have the project installed within the next three or four months.

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