Monday, March 12, 2007
Help Me Howard: Neighborhood construction
They've been dealing with construction in front of their homes for weeks. The noise and vibrations are literally shaking things off their walls. Now, frustrated homeowners just want to know when it's going to end, so they're calling Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
(WSVN) -- I'll bet you have never heard of Sailboat Bend, first settled in 1838 and still a Fort Lauderdale treasure...
Stephen Baker: "It's gorgeous. It's not only gorgeous. It's extremely quiet."
But, right now, it's not very gorgeous, and the only people calling it quiet are wearing earplugs.
Stephen Baker: "Just constant aggravation. It's just a pain."
A $5 million project to replace the water and sewer lines is underway to make the residents lives better, but, instead, the construction destruction has left them shaken... literally.
Stephen Baker: "It was vibrating that much."
One day, the vibration from the earth movers knocked four pictures off Steve's wall, breaking the glass.
Stephen Baker: "It was very shaky."
That same day, over at Rafael's house, his crystal collection started collapsing on the floor.
Rafael Aybar: "So, that one fell down, and the thing was broken all around."
And, if you don't believe how intense the vibrations are, watch this: when the crews roll by, everything that is not bolted down, comes tumbling down.
Back in December, residents were told there would be some noise and dust for about six weeks.
Of course the deadline has been missed, but the contractor said if there was any damage to call, so they did.
Stephen Baker: "His answer to that was: What do you want me to do about it?"
Rafael Aybar: "He wasn't very nice."
On another day, when Dee's house started shaking, she came out to watch the construction.
Dee Lowthop: "He just pulled the machine around, and the bucket hit my truck."
Her window was broken and the door damaged. The company has repaired the glass, but day after day they keep inflicting pain.
Dee Lowthop: "Sometimes it takes me 20 minutes to get out of my neighborhood."
That's because residents are not told which roads will be worked on or when, and which roads will be closed or when. Of course, the residents say this could all be resolved if the contractor would simply do one thing for the residents.
Rafael Aybar: "Communication. That's what we expect, [for them] to communicate with us. I would just like to know why they don't have some sort of liaison with the people around here. To let people know what's going on."
But do the the taxpayers who are paying a Pennsylvania contractor $5 million to replace the pipes and, along the way, break some glass and unnerve some people, have a right to know what is going on?
To find out, we bring in Help Me Howard...
Howard Finkelstein, 7 Legal Expert: "First of all, if the contractor breaks it, they have to pay to fix it -- and the law does not require residents to be kept up to date, but the city can require it, and they have in this project, so the residents should not be in the dark."
When I spoke to the contractor, they told me an attempt is made to contact each homeowner verbally to let them know when we are coming into their area. He said, "Of the hundreds of residents there may be a few we miss."
He also told me he would have a staff meeting the next day to reiterate they need to get the complaints to the right people.
When I spoke to the people from Waterworks, which are overseeing the project, a spokeswoman told me on a project this big there are going to be problems. She added, "I wish the residents had let us know this was going on in addition to calling the contractor."
Rafael Aybar: "I was expecting them to have a little more respect for us."
Steven and Rafael called the Waterworks people that day to voice their concerns.
But one bit of news they got is not good, since the project is behind schedule, it will be this summer before the historic community gets through this historic mess and returns to normal.
Patrick Fraser: "Well, the contractors representative told me they had hired a seismic vibration company to measure the vibration, and that they had only go up to 25 percent of the legal limit. That's nice, but Howard says just because they are under the legal limit doesn't mean they are not responsible for the damage they cause, and people should file claims for anything broken by that construction."
Torn up about things tearing you down? Don't just sit there, contact us. Overcoming problems is what we live for... sort of.
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