Resident says city work left "a muddy mess"

Traffic cones, a busted-up driveway, and a yard that is missing a lot of grass are all that remain of a city work site that has been here for almost eight months.

The people who live in three homes there have called the city of Columbia dozens of times. The neighbors say they have grown closer together over the last eight months, bonding over an issue they say has been a daily headache.

"It's been a muddy mess," said Steve Poncsak.

He and his neighbors to either side, Ivy Chestnut and Dave Cross, have lived in what has been a city work zone since October of 2012.

Poncsak said at times there was so much water, it would flow down the street. He told the city he thought there was a busted water line.

"They responded and came out after several weeks and looked at it and decided to replace the water meter pipe, which they did," he said. "It didn't solve the problem."

So, Poncsak called back.

City workers came back, one of the many trips they made to the site, repeatedly digging up Poncsak's front yard at the home he is renting.

In fact, the person who owns the home told WIS in an email, she had no idea the city was even working on her property until she stopped by the house while she was in town for a visit.

In that email, the homeowner said: "To my surprise I found my driveway torn up and a pond forming in my front yard."

"Constant digging, constant water running down the street, and nothing ever being done," said Cross.

The three neighbors said most of the time, each trip was a new crew, with no knowledge of the past complaints. More concerning to them was the fact that no one would give them an answer of what the problem was or when it would be fixed.

"I was ignored," said Chestnut, who said they called the city at least 30 times.

Those calls, all before Chestnut's yard was even affected. She was just trying to help her neighbor. But in the process of the searching for a leak, city crews ripped up her driveway.

"When I got home, I could not believe that was my driveway," said Chestnut. "I was in total shock. I actually drove up the street, came back and had to do a double take. My driveway was completely gone."

City of Columbia Utilities and Engineering Director Joey Jaco said the city was right to dig up the yard and the driveway. It's why they have easement. He said city crews were simply searching for the cause of the leak.

When asked how long city crews had been looking at this particular site,  Jaco replied, "The records that we were able to find go back to October. It may be that we were receiving calls earlier than that. But, we have records indicating that we've been looking at this site since October."

When asked if a seven month time span normal for an investigation like this, Jaco said, "It is not."

The city's investigation has yet to find a water main leak. It turns out water testing was inconclusive on whether the water was treated city water in the first place. Jaco said it could simply be ground water.
"I just don't think that the whole situation was handled properly," said Cross.

The city will replace Chestnut's driveway, and will repair the damaged yard. Jaco said these types of inconveniences happen, when crews have to go searching for leaks.

"We do have to dig where our water line is, and unfortunately we go under driveways, we go under sidewalks, we go under streets," said Jaco.

But those repairs can't come soon enough for Chestnut, Cross and Poncsak.

"It's awful, muddy mess, feeling," said Poncsak.

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