2018-10-17

MODL working on kinks in straight pipe program

by Gayle Wilson

  • <p>GAYLE WILSON PHOTO</p><p>Denise and Michael Lee stand in front of the new septic system that was still exposed at their home in Conquerall Bank.</p>
  • <p>CONTRIBUTED PHOTO</p><p>Installation of a new septic system at the Lees began August 31 and was to have been completed 10 days later. On October 9, the couple complained that their handicapped daughter-in-law would not be able to access the inside of their home on Thanksgiving because finishing touches on the job still had not been done.</p>

With 55 straight pipe systems replaced and a further 25 replacements expected to be completed by the end of the 2018 construction season, MODL's Straight Pipe Replacement Program is well underway.

But progress on replacing hundreds of straight pipe systems feeding into the LaHave River has been far from straight forward.

"It's an ambitious project, and we've definitely learned a great deal since we broke ground on the first system this spring," Sarah Kucharski, MODL's communications officer, admitted in an email to LighthouseNOW.

She was responding to complaints brought to the attention of the newspaper by one couple living in Conquerall Bank, Denise and Michael Lee.

Denise called LighthouseNOW in tears on October 5th, complaining that the work that was started on August 31, which they were advised would be completed 10 days later, was still far from done.

"Look, I really agree with this. Our house is over 100 years old and this needed to be done," she said.

However, according to the Lees, the installation contractor, Town and Country Property Improvements, deviated from the plan they initially agreed to which the system designers, Abel Engineering, had put forth.

While the Lees agreed to the change of plan, they complained that no fill was brought to cover up the tanks left protruding from the ground, nor was the dirt, sand and boulders left behind cleaned up.

They could not use their back driveway or parking area, had no access to the house from the back, and were forced to tread through a muddy back yard with rubber boots.

"It's Thanksgiving weekend. Our daughter-in-law is handicapped. And there's no way she can get to our house," Denise added, her voice choking up.

According to the couple, the municipality and contractor were slow to respond to their concerns.

MODL's Kucharski was reluctant to talk about specific cases, nonetheless she agreed, "It's definitely not ideal that the homeowner did not have the property the way they wanted it for that weekend."

She added that sometimes home owners don't fully understand the logistics the municipality is working with, "with so many systems going in this year."

MODL had set itself a goal of 100 systems in by the end of 2018.

She says generally the jobs are being done quickly, "but we need more resources. So we're re-sourcing out more accordingly."

She conceded,"some specific contracts or specific projects are taking a little longer," depending what they find underground, however she suggested the delays are still within the boundaries set out in the contracts that were tendered out.

"But it's a challenge, (the contractors) are working around a lot of different moving factors, and they want to do systems in the same area at the same time to improve efficiencies."

The weather plays a role as well.

"When we get a lot of rain, we can't take those excavators on peoples' lawns because they will destroy them," said Kucharski.

Nonetheless, she conceded, "We know we haven't been able to be as quick in responding to homeowners as they would like.

"That's some feedback we're getting, and we're actively working on that by doing more contracting out."

The Lees' complaints seemingly were getting through, however.

By the morning of October 9, Town and County had people back on the property working at resolving some of the outstanding issues, they reported.

"We're very appreciative of all that they've done this week. In a day and a half they made up a lot of ground," commented Michael.

However, when the newspaper caught up with the couple again on October 10, they claimed they still had not been advised what the replacement of their straight pipe system would cost them, or when they would need to start paying.

Kucharski told LighthouseNOW she would look into this. It's her understanding that shortly after the tender for the contracting work is given out by MODL's council, each home owner is advised what the cost to replace their system will be.

While Town and Country won a second tender to replace another package of septic systems on September 11, Maria Butts, the program coordinator, told MODL council members at their meeting on October 9 the company has since withdrawn its bid.

The company had determined that looking at its time lines for the installations they already had been awarded, "they would not be able to meet the timelines" of the new tender, she explained.

The tender was subsequently awarded to the next lowest bidder for the bundle, CK Earthworks Ltd.

Town and Country declined to comment to LighthouseNOW about the Lee's case or anything else concerning the straight pipes program.

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