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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

New Bids Underway for Burnet Ridge Stabilization

Roadway and hill erosion on Burnet Ridge. 

A new request for proposals to stabilize the Burnet Ridge roadway and surrounding property near the creek was advertised this week.

The request is a hopeful sign that a solution to a problem that has been a source of frustration for the city and the property owners is at hand. It also marks a positive shift in a relationship between city officials and owner Adam Blau that had soured in recent months due to delays and miscommunication.

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An earlier request was rejected by the city when proposals greatly exceeded the expected cost. City engineers estimated bids would come in between $80,000 and $100,000, but when they came back with the lowest bid at $145,000, staff decided to reject the bids and research why they had been so high.

"In all the years I’ve been on council, this is the first time the engineers’ estimate was that far different from the actual cost," said Mayor Eric Haas.

The mayor and council members said they felt it their fiscal responsibility to take the time to find out why the bids were so high and how to rewrite them to ensure the best outcome. If the new bids come back with similar results, the city is committed to do the project as planned, Haas said.

Yet, for Blau, the delay caused by the initial bid rejection added more time to an already overlong and somewhat frustrating process. It had been more than two-and-a-half years since he first discovered the problem, one that has grown exponentially.

"The problem is getting so serious that Rumpke told the neighbors that they will no longer be able to go down the road because of the narrowed width of the road and the weight of their truck," said Blau. "A small garbage truck weighs 33,000 pounds, and it cannot ride safely over water and sewage lines on a road that is eroding."

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Seeking resolution

Fort Thomas staff installed a larger catch basin along Burnet Ridge in June 2015.

Greatly concerned, he addressed council at its meeting in October and again at the November meeting. In fact, Blau came the second time accompanied by a lawyer and threatened a lawsuit if he could not gain satisfaction.

"What I’d like to hear tonight is what kind of solution we’ve come up with in the last month and to see if we can hash a few things out… and get to a resolution before I have to go to a lawsuit. I’ve come to the end of my rope. It’s been almost three years. This has not been fun for me," he said.

Blau shared a packet of photos and information with council and gave a brief recap of the situation for those present. He first noticed the issue in early 2015 after city workers had put in a larger catch basin for runoff from the roadway. Water was running down to the creek and eroding both the roadway and hillside, missing the drain set up and the catch basin altogether. His photos show a progression that starts with crumbling along the roadway and basin that over time becomes a large-scale slide of the road and hill down into the creek.

Blau said he feels the issue began with the new catch basin, saying that in the 40 years his family has owned the property he didn't see a problem until it was installed. Yet, City Administrator Ron Dill said the erosion, known as "creep" is an ongoing and naturally occurring issue that the city has been addressing in other parts of that road for several years. The solution the city has used in the past has been to construct piers to shore up the area, but it became clear that would not be enough once the erosion had progressed.

The more permanent solution, the work out for bid currently, will be to install a retaining wall father down the creek bed and to extend the culvert underneath the road. This addresses both the road and the erosion along the creek bed.

Moving ahead

Hillside and roadway "creep" as erosion continues, November 2017.

After the October council meeting, Dill met with engineers to discuss the project and the bids. He arranged with one contractor to do temporary repairs to support the roadway and surrounding area until a more permanent solution can be found.

The temporary work scheduled to begin will be a "controlled fill" in the area immediately adjacent to the street to bring it level with the existing street. The street surface would then be restored over the fill area and an asphalt curb installed to direct surface water in the street to the existing catch basin.

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All agreed this was short-term solution. Dill said the city would commit to posting the request for new bids as soon as possible and would have bids in and a decision made by the January council meeting.

Blau said he could accept that and said, for him, it was not knowing what was happening that made the situation hard for him. Haas apologized to Blau for not keeping him in the loop about the city’s plans and efforts to address the situation.

Added Blau, "I really love this city…I just want to get back to the way things were before this started."

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