Newell: Lakeview citizens deserved better communication from City before roadwork

The engineering is straightforward, but guidance from City not so much

Newell Normand
September 19, 2019 - 5:28 pm

A busted-up street is rebuilt in Lakeview. Great news, right? Not if you're one of the half-dozen or so 22nd Street homeowners who woke up to discover that their front yard, their driveway, the sidewalk are all a whopping 18 inches below the surface of the new road. How does that happen? Where is water supposed to go?

To help understand some of the engineering issues that gave rise to this problem, Newell invited UNO Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Dr. Norma Jean Mattei onto the program Thursday morning. 

"I was always under the impression that the code provided that water on your property would flow from the back to the front in order to take advantage of the drainage system that lies beneath the street," Newell began. "Is that an improper observation?"

"It's really a requirement on the person owning the property," Dr. Mattei answered. "The property should slope slightly from the back to the front and then into the street where it meets up at the gutter line and water there is added to the flow that's in the street and into the catch basins and storm drainage."

So what happens when the City raises the roadway like this?

"Typically what would happen in that redesign or replacement of the street, it would include replacement of the apron - the driveway between the sidewalk and the street - I just left there, but I didn't put an instrument on it, but it looks like there's a few locations where the space between the house and the sidewalk is going to hold water. I would say that the City should be filling that in so the water will flow to the street."

"But if you are required by code to flow from the back property line to the front property line, which is the inside line of the sidewalk because the city owns from the inside line of the sidewalk to the curb - they said their remediation is going to be to raise the driveway and backfill the front yard - you've created yet another dam from the backyard to flow to the front yard and into the street. It seems to me that's not an appropriate answer, and not an appropriate remediation!" Newell said.

"It is typically up to the owner of the property to maintain that property for proper drainage," Dr. Mattei reiterated. "More than likely, those properties originally did slope towards the street so the proper drainage was ensured. This happens quite often in that reclaimed swamp area that Lakeview sits in, there's a lot of subsidence. I live in a 1930s home, and my backyard holds water. I need to fill it... playing Devil's Advocate here, if the city does put fill in the front yard and now the backyard is low - was the backyard draining properly to begin with?"

"That's a fair question," Newell responded. "But one would think the City would communicate with these residents and figured that all out before they raised the roadway. That would seem to me to be the appropriate due diligence to have done, because in the interim, the roadway is poured and now there's these additional problems they're finding out about, and nobody's ever said, 'you may need to provide a remediation to this on the front end!'

"I'm gonna think like an engineer. If I was designing this street rehab, plus utilities, I'm stuck with where that pipe starts and it's going to slowly slope to where it has to go. On top of that, I have to have a certain required amount of fill, then I put my materials under the street, then I put my street, and that bottom elevation where I want proper flow for my stormwater is not negotiable, I'm stuck with it. So then you look at the yards and think, well this can be fixed."

"Yeah," Newell said, "But it seems like there was no communication with the homeowners that this may be an outcome, and now they're going out on their front yard and saying 'Houston we have a problem.' It would seem to me there would be a more open and transparent process with the adjacent landowners about the potential problem!"

Hear the entire interview in the audio player below.

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