Residents, business owners get questions answered at North 2 UEP open house
Property owners in the North 2 Utilities Extension Project area flocked to an open house Monday at City Hall seeking answers to questions and the concerns they face during the two years of construction.
Project contractors for all contract areas and city staff were available for four hours to talk with residents so they could better understand the process. In all, nearly 9,000 parcels make up the North 2 area, a narrow strip that generally runs north of Pine Island Road from Old Burnt Store Road on the west to Del Prado Boulevard on the east. Construction on the $269 million project is scheduled to start in August with completion in August 2019.
City staff also addressed questions about the project in general and the city’s assessment payment options. Many wanted clarification on the options they find confusing. Those who qualify for the city’s hardship program were able to file an application as well.
“I found it very informative on the finance options,” said residents Bernard and Eugenia Conley. “They were very professional and seemed compassionate. It was very beneficial for us to understand the options.”
“A lot of folks wanted to know what happens to their landscaping and sprinklers,” said UEP Director Kevin Higginson. “They want to know how it impacts their driveways and when construction will be in front of their house. There are a lot of individual issues that can be handled on a case by case basis.”
According to Dave Scafidi, representing contractor Mitchell & Stark, the gravity sewer line goes in the ground first because it is the deepest. The irrigation and potable water lines run shallower.
“From the time we pulverize the road and rebuild it takes about four months,” Scafidi said. “We remove the driveway up to the property line, or less if we can, and replace it. The road is not paved until the system is tested, which can depend on connections to other areas and could take six months or a little more.”
As with the sidewalk project, trees or other landscaping planted in the right of way should be transplanted by the homeowner, but Scafidi said his crews will try to work around them in individual cases. Otherwise, trees can be cut down.
“People also asked what happens with Greater Pine Island Water customers,” said Higginson. “If they paid the impact fees to Pine Island they are not be assessed, except for perhaps vacant lots that have not paid fees to Pine Island. And there’s a lot of concern about the expense of the assessments.”
Resident Ken Durand was upset about having to pay the assessment even before the contractor starts on his street.
“Why do they want you to pay up front when they won’t start at my location until next spring,” said Durand. “Then they said I could get a water bill before hooking up.”
Dr. Terri Alexander, owner of Santa Barbara Animal Hospital, went to the open house to become better informed on how much her clinic will be impacted.
“My fear is a lot less now,” said Alexander. “I am concerned about disruption to my business and how long, but I feel better about it since I learned they will be coming through on the back side. I have a large assessment and I want to know why, so I’m going to the finance area next.”
Higginson said, “The Capital Facility Expansion Charge portion of the assessment is based on the size of the meter needed to serve a business. There is no favoritism associated with the commercial land uses.”
Resident Carl Sutphin said he went to the open house mostly to find out when construction will start on his street and how much disruption there is to access to the property.
“They have to build the lift station first, but it looks like a January start,” Sutphin said. “I also wanted to find out about the mailbox access.”
Resident Bill Huddleston was most interested in the construction start schedule and the impact to his driveway and landscaping.
“I wanted to know what happens if they tear up my sprinklers,” Huddleston said. “I’d also like to see a visual on the payment options because it’s not clear.”
According to county Health Department environmental supervisor Taylor Brown, residents wanted to know more about the septic system abandonment process associated with the utility project.
“We can’t tell them how much it will cost because it has to be done by licensed plumbing contractors,” Brown said. “Those charges change all the time. People have 90 days after connecting to the sewer system to get the required permits and abandon (crush) the septic system.”
The city will finance the project with a State Revolving Finance loan and is expected to approve the loan debt ordinance at the next City Council meeting on July 24.