After enduring eight months of underground construction, some frustrated College Terrace residents have submitted a petition criticizing the city and its contractors for inefficiency and unnecessarily disrupting neighborhood life.
"The primary concern should not be getting work done," resident Christopher Harris, organizer of the petition, said.
"The primary concern should take the needs and comfort of the people in the neighborhood into consideration."
Although approximately 50 residents signed the petition, neighborhood association President Greg Tanaka said he has heard some complaints, but many residents understand that some inconvenience is necessary to get improved sewer and gas connections.
"It's definitely an issue but it doesn't seem to be a burning issue," Tanaka said.
Harris knows construction brings noise and disturbance, yet he said the city should improve its efficiency and minimize discomfort for residents.
The months of construction have constrained already limited parking, workers have accessed residents' yards without notice and sometimes heavy machinery arrives as early as 7 a.m., one hour before city rules allow work to begin, Harris said.
"The constant noise is significantly degrading our quality of life," the petition states.
Harris said the city has taken a "scatter-bomb approach" to the construction.
Harris said workers with contractor Ranger Pipeline drive construction vehicles into the neighborhood before 8 a.m., then sit and talk until work begins, causing disruption.
Princeton Street resident Swathi Rao knew that workers planned to slice into her driveway and readily agreed to pay for part of the repaving and for new water pipes.
Yet her driveway wasn't repaved for three months.
She said one day she arrived home and one of her trees had been cut down without notice, leaving only a stump. In addition, her sprinkler system was damaged.
"We signed the petition because we feel that the whole construction could have been done in a more efficient and conscientious manner and practices could be improved in the future," Rao said in an e-mail.
"We understand that construction must be done, but just want it to be done with minimal inconvenience for city residents."
The current College Terrace construction is part of a citywide effort to update underground utilities and roads in certain areas in a coordinated manner, according to Public Works Director Glenn Roberts. The emphasis on coordination stems from a report in early 2006 by former City Auditor Sharon Erickson that was highly critical of uncoordinated digging up of streets by different departments, such as utilities or pubic works.
In College Terrace, crews began work on the sewage pipes in October 2007, finishing in March. Different crews now are replacing gas lines, a project with an uncertain completion date, Assistant Utilities Director Tomm Marshall said.
To Harris, the separation of the projects seemed "haphazard."
However Marshall said contractors need specific certification for both sewer and gas projects.
"Many times people who do sewer jobs can't do gas work," Marshall said. "Not all contractors are capable of doing that. These things are usually not done at the same time. That doesn't mean it wasn't possible in this situation."
Marshall said department officials may try to hire contractors capable of both gas and sewer work for future work areas.
Marshall said residents were notified several times about the general construction and property owners were told at least 24 hours in advance about work planned near or on their properties.
Marshall said he couldn't prohibit workers from arriving early.
"We get complaints," Marshall said. "We try to tell the contractors not to come before 8 a.m. Although it's not prohibited to move vehicles before that time."
Other residents feel the street repairs are necessary for the neighborhood and that the construction is being handled well.
"They're doing a hell of a job under the circumstances," Oberlin Street resident Phillip Zschokke said. "The street needed repair before they even started talking about it.
"If I can put up with it, they can all put up with it," Zschokke said.
The neighborhood won't be done with construction for quite some time: Roberts said the streets will be repaved in 2009.
Tanaka said he has invited Harris to speak at the next College Terrace Residents Association meeting Wednesday at 7 p.m.
And Harris said he hopes his concerns will be addressed by the City Council.