Repairs Churning Life

Residents Await End

by Keith Laing, The Brunswick News

July 21, 2005

The first day of school is less than three weeks away, and in addition to making sure her grandchildren have school supplies and clothes, Brunswick resident Carol Harris might also have to worry about where they will be picked up by the school bus.

That’s because of a project which city engineer Bill Piper says will improve the flow of wastewater, but might not be completed before Aug. 10, the first day of school. The project, which involves installing a new large gravity sewer line, has caused K Street to be closed from Newcastle Street to Norwich Street.

Harris, who lives at the corner of K and Union streets, is concerned that if the project is not completed soon, her grandchildren will be unsafe because they will have to catch the school bus blocks from her home.

“I’m not keen on them having to walk four to five blocks just to catch the bus, because there are (bad) people lurking out there,” she said.

Harris said the work has not only caused her future worries, but it also is affecting her family. The view from her porch includes heavy construction equipment and mounds of excavated dirt so pervasive that the workers have promised to pressure wash her house when they move farther down the street.

“It’s definitely a hassle,” she said. “I have to park my car on the side of the house and walk around, I can hardly hear the phone ring because (of the heavy equipment) … and I’ve had sewage problems because they are breaking into the ground.”

Harris said she just hopes the end result is worth the hassle.

“I know they are working as fast as they can, but once they finish putting down the pipes, someone else has to come out and repave the road,” she said.

Fortunately for the city, not all residents feel the same way as Harris does.

Dollena Byrd, who lives on K Street between Norwich and Union streets, not only supports the work, but even enjoys it.

“We sit out every morning drinking coffee and watching them work,” she said. “It’s a great thing for the pipes and for Brunswick, and it’s really interesting.”

Barbara Williams, who resides on the corner of K and Norwich streets, at the end of the construction zone, said the work and closed streets have decreased the number of motorists passing her home.

“The way it was before, we got a lot of through traffic from (U.S. Highway) 341, but it’s not as bad now that the street’s closed,” she said.

Piper said he hopes residents are understanding about the need for repairs.

“These are things that are critical to the city,” he said. “We’re trying to turn this around and make a logical system out of it to accommodate the development and expansion of facilities that relocate or are already here in the city.”

City engineer Piper said the work is necessary because the existing system is antiquated.

“When I came here five years ago, this was the No. 1 priority in the whole city,” he said. “The infrastructure was allowed to deteriorate, so there was potential for catastrophic collapse. Every time a new subdivision went up, the county or city got a new lift system.”

Piper said the city’s sewage system currently contains 66 lifts, which are hard to maintain. This project, coupled with a few other proposals, will eliminate about 10 of them.

He estimates the total cost of the current K Street project, which is phase three of a larger overhaul of the system, at about $3.7 million. He said the total cost to complete the work will run close to $18 million. The designing phase was included in the third Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST 3), with the construction funds coming from SPLOST 4.

Piper said most of the remaining repairs will have to wait until a new SPLOST is approved.

He is aware of residents’ concerns, but feels that the construction will ultimately do them more good than harm.

“There are no simple answers,” he said. “(There are) only intelligent choices. We hope we’re making intelligent choices.”

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