Sunday, August 28, 2005

The Good, The Bad, And The Bureaucratic

The Good: I was totally, but pleasantly surprised to see a Metro Water official show up in front of my house last Wednesday morning after Tuesday night's Wastewater meeting, after which several of us spoke with Public Information Officer Sonia Harvat (tel.: 862-4494; e-mail: in order to get Metro's response to water run-off problems in various parts of Salemtown. (Shannahs relates her post-meeting experience here with Metro Water's responsiveness to a water run-off problem on 4th Ave., requiring the imput of the brown-clad UPS guy, too). I told Ms. Shervat that last fall, after repairing a sewer line in front of my house, the pavers did not level the new asphalt they put down against the old asphalt. As a result, water backed up at spots in front of my house depositing silt and, during the winter, road salt and sand, which made the curbside parking more unpaved than paved. I also let her know that in the spring I shoveled and removed a wheelbarrow full of salt and sand from the curb. I never expected such quick turn around, and my guess is that the amount of problems reported and/or criticism fielded the evening before must have made an impression.

The Bad: After inspecting the newer asphalt patch and listening to me recount the drainage problems for several minutes on Wednesday morning, the Metro Water official told me that he was not sure that the problem could be fixed. That's not what I wanted to hear. He said that he would check with Public Works to see if the run-off channel could be "milled," but he seemed to hedge. He told me that he was not sure that milling was possible without creating more drainage problems below the curb. I tried to gently remind him that the sewer workers were responsible for the problem, since they repaired the street, which didn't seem to impress him at all.

The Bureaucratic: He responded that the real problem was unplanned and uncoordinated growth in the neighborhood. He told me that the Salemtown sewer lines were 100 years old and that in some cases there was no line left and that dirt was the only thing channeling sewerage. He blamed the developers and he blamed the lack of planning on the government side. He pointed down the street to some duplexes that were being built and told me that the sewer problems were due to developments like that one, where two houses were put on a lot designed for one house. He suggested that the problem might not be fixed until the street was re-paved, which might not be until 2010. That wasn't good enough for me. I just wanted the water run-off to be fixed before the winter arrives and requires more salt and sand to be dumped in the road.

Postscript: I don't totally disagree with the Metro Water official that development needs to be balanced by proper planning. I'm also not naive or dishonest enough to suggest that a free market could solve these development problems. But it's like a builder told me later when I related this story to him: many of these officials are less interested in proper planning than they are in protecting their own turfs and making sure that they are not blamed for problems, even if they are responsible for them. "Proper planning" is thrown up as a smokescreen to obscure accountability. That's the risk and danger of bureaucracies, whether public or private. The official's response to me might have been honest but we all need to keep in mind that he could simply be responding to a problem by shielding himself from blame and responsibility. The builder told me that Metro Water charged him $500.00 per duplex to hook up the lines. I don't know where that money goes, but that knowledge sure cut into the credibility of the Water official's complaints about new builds on old properties. I'll keep an eye on this situation and I plan to follow up with Ms. Shervat until somebody does something to fix the water run-off problems.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah I must say it's entertaining to watch all the trash flow down the "river" that is the side of the road during todays thumderstorm... .. . o.o