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Total street closure for repairs infuriates Kent woman

Lisa Bartholomew stands along her street, 94th Avenue, which had been completely shut down earlier this month on short notice. - CHARLES CORTES, Kent Reporter
Lisa Bartholomew stands along her street, 94th Avenue, which had been completely shut down earlier this month on short notice.
— image credit: CHARLES CORTES, Kent Reporter

Lisa Bartholomew couldn't believe the short notice she got, telling her that vehicle access would be cut off for a full day to and from her Kent home for street repairs.

"We were locked in for nine hours," Bartholomew said.

Bartholomew said she saw a flyer only the night before the repair work started on Sept. 1. The flyer had been left on her front porch. Another neighbor thought they had seen the flyer maybe two days before repairs began.

Two days, or one day, the Kent woman was decidedly nonplussed about what she called the short notice.

"I was livid about it," Bartholomew said. "We should've been given two weeks' notice."

Bartholomew lives on 94th Avenue South just north of South 212th Street in the Valley View Estates neighborhood near the Chestnut Ridge housing development. And on Sept. 1, crews blocked off her neighborhood at 96th Avenue South, keeping vehicles from entering or leaving the area.

Kent city officials allowed the street repairs to be done by a contractor hired by the Soos Creek Water and Sewer District to fix streets after old water lines in the neighborhood had been replaced.

City officials acknowledged they'd expected more from the contractor in the way of notifications to neighbors.

"We permitted the work and we expected better notification (to residents) than what we got," said Tim LaPorte, city public works director, in a phone interview Sept. 8. "We expected the contractor would talk to all of the neighbors and not miss some."

LaPorte said at least five working days of notice should have been given.

The project impacted the residents of about 80 homes.

"Maybe there were less than 80 homes involved but a lot happens with 80 families in a day," Bartholomew said. "They had signs on the street that read no parking but nothing said we would be locked in our homes."

Bartholomew already had scheduled a furniture delivery for what turned out to be the same day crews closed the street.

"The delivery drivers were told it would be a $500 fine if they drove past the closure," Bartholomew said.

That resulted in the Kent woman getting her furniture at 11:30 p.m. that night, after the street reopened. Fortunately, the furniture company waived its fee for the change in delivery time.

"I was thankful they understood," Bartholomew said. "But the point is the city of Kent did not think about what they were doing. They had a job and just wanted to get it done."

LaPorte said he has talked with Soos Creek Water and Sewer District officials to discuss the notification issue and to help make sure a similar incident does not occur.

"At this point it's done, but we will bear this in mind the next time they hire a consulting firm in charge of notification," LaPorte said. "We're disappointed and we will see that this does not happen again."

Bartholomew wished the lack of proper notification had never happened in the first place.

"They've got to give people more notice," she said. "I had no problem if given time. They did a beautiful job on the street. It's now all black. I have no problem with the project but with the fact they didn't give notice."

LaPorte said the type of street repair, known as a slurry seal, also caused a problem because the project requires vehicles to stay off the road for at least six hours. That length of time causes a lot more disruption to residents.

"It's highly unlikely that we will allow slurry seals again," LaPorte said. "It was a bit of an experiment to see how it works. If the notification had been better, then maybe this comes off without a hitch. But that was not the case."

Crews typically repair streets with an asphalt overlay that costs a bit more upfront but can be driven on after just a couple of hours and last longer, LaPorte said.

Bartholomew would prefer to see notices mailed rather than left on doors.

"Something should've been mailed," Bartholomew said. "Not everyone uses their front porch."

Other neighborhoods shouldn't expect any street repair work by the city in the near future unless it's connected with fixing a street after utility repairs.

"We need to replace 3 to 6 miles of our streets every year with an asphalt overlay but we have no money in our transportation budget," LaPorte said.

LaPorte said Bartholomew could call him directly to discuss the incident in her neighborhood.

"She can call me," he said. "I am sorry it happened."

Bartholomew said she does not plan to call LaPorte. She said she just wanted other city residents to know how government handled the street repairs in her neighborhood.

"I thought people should know about this," she said.

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