CLAYTON — The need to replace the sewer system near the John Street townhomes across U.S. 70 has reached a “critical point,” according to Town Manager Steve Biggs, but constuction has been delayed since two homeowners have still not agreed to the project.
“The existing facilities are in bad need of replacement,” said Biggs. For four years, some of the residents in the townhomes have been plagued by the same sewer problems, experiencing backflows in their toilets, and even flooding in their homes. The problem has only gotten worse as the spills continued recently. But, the town has been delayed repairs of the sewer pipes because two home owners have not turned in their approvals of the easements.
“We wanted all of this done a month ago,” said Biggs.
The town first sent out letters to the 16 homeowners about the sewer project in May 2012. In October, the town sent another letter about easements that warranted the approval of all of the homeowners who would be affected.
On Tuesday, the town sent a final request for approval of the easements to the two homeowners who have yet to respond. If they do not approve of the easements in 30 days, the town will use its right of imminent domain to do the work. Those property owners will be forced to pay for their share of the project.
Each homeowner is required to pay $4,500 for the project, which is a burden many residents have said they would rather not bear, but they recognize the need for the repairs, and are ready to get the construction started.
Nathan Moffett lives in one of the townhomes. He said his townhouse has had problems with backing up for the past four or five years. “It’s even started to make our wood floor bow, and we had to tear out parts of the floor,” Moffett said. His neighbor, Lori Holland, once had an overflow in her townhouse that leaked into Moffett’s home. But Holland was not home at the time, and hardly ever is. Mofett said it was difficult to get in touch with her to get the flooding resolved two years ago, and that she has not been at the townhouse in about two years.
Holland is one of the people who has yet to turn in her easement approval. The certified mail from the town that was sent out this week to notify her one last time before the town pursues imminent domain was still hanging out of her glass door, and there were no lights on at the home.
“It’s just been one problem after another,” Moffett said.
When the sewer pipes that are connected to each of the individual townhomes were constructed in the 1980s, the pipes used were too small, only 4-inches wide, which has been the source of the sewer problems. During construction, 6-inch pipes will be installed. Since the residents live on private property, it is up to each of them to fund the construction.
The cost feels especially steep for the homeowners who have not had sewer problems. Yudelka Branagan is the townhome community’s homeowner’s association president.. She said she has never experienced any sewer problems in her townhouse, but she is aware that there are three residents who have consistently had problems who have come to her about it for the seven years since she has lived there. However, it’s a huge burden to have to pay for it.
She says being forced to pay $4,500 feels like being forced to take out a car loan. “If I wanted to buy a car and I had to take out a car loan because I couldn’t pay for it, I wouldn’t buy the car because I couldn’t pay for it.”
Though Branagan doesn’t agree with the fact that she has to pay, she is resigned to it because she recognizes the problem needs to be fixed.
The town has contacted Branagan and asked her to reach out to the two homeowners who have not turned in their easements. She said she has an old phone number for Holland that she will try to reach her on, but it has been a year since she last heard from Holland. “That’s been an empty townhome for close to two years.”
She said the other person who hasn’t turned in his easement is an absentee owner who rents out his property. She did not identify the man but said he told her he has not received a letter from the town.