Carol Obenhaus has been a student of the ReBuild Houston Oak Forest Storm Water Drainage Improvement project from the beginning. Now, she as well as other area residents are just waiting out the end – despite the fact that they say specific details of just when that will be have been hard to come by from the city.
As The Leader reported earlier this summer, the project consists of the removal and replacement of inlets from West 43rd Street to Bethlehem Street and from Rosslyn Road to Oak Forest Drive. According to a statement from the Public Works and Engineering Department, the contractor for this project is P2MG, LLC. An August date was given for completion.
However, residents say the work has now stopped and the holes that had been dug were covered with metal plates, boards or marked off with barrels and caution tape. Concrete pipes were left on the side of the road near the intersection of Bethlehem and Rosslyn. Area residents say calls to 3-1-1 didn’t yield satisfactory answers about exactly why the work had stopped or when it would begin again.
“I have talked to many neighbors who are upset by this and want to see the project completed,” said Obenhaus. “They are frustrated that we have not gotten results going through the usual channels.”
Resident Anne Letzerich said that the crew was very friendly but that they “just disappeared” about a month ago.
Obenhaus remembers that the bulldozers first showed up the Friday before the Memorial Day floods and ripped out the old drains at the end of Viking and Rosslyn.
“The crews showed up for a while and appeared to have put in the new drainage pipes but about a month ago all work stopped,” she said. “We are left with deep gaping holes on both sides of Rosslyn at Viking and the concrete work that was done is incomplete so that we now have an apparently permanent and unintentional speed bump at several streets along Rosslyn between 43rd and Bethlehem.”
To further add to the confusion, Obenhaus and her neighbors got a door flyer about the project stating that sidewalks were going to be added to her street in the near future.
“I contacted all the people on the flyer and was finally assured, the flyers had been delivered to the wrong neighborhood and the project was the drainage improvements along Rosslyn from 43rd to Bethlehem,” Obenhaus said.
Besides safety concerns about the holes, Obenhaus notes that several fire hydrants are not accessible and where the existing sidewalk was replaced – at Latexo and Rosslyn – it doesn’t appear to meet ADA standards. And as for the project providing better drainage, she is hoping for the best.
“If the dip between the concrete and asphalt at the end of Latexo is fixed, I don’t know if there will be enough clearance for the water to drain,” she said.
While one of Obenhaus’ neighbors said he was told the project would be wrapped up by Sept. 15, a project foreman now tells The Leader that it will be about three months before completion.
Foreman Mark Nelson said that there was a 10-week delay in securing some of the needed materials because of the volume of construction in the city and a related scarcity of materials.
“We’ll start back next week depending on the weather,” he said.
Nelson noted that they are upgrading the pipes from 18 to 24 inches and are replacing more than 70 manholes. It was the tops of the manholes they were lacking.
“We’re trying not to tear up the streets,” he said. “We’ll do it in sections.”
Engineer, city council member and candidate for mayor Steve Costello is one of the architects of the ReBuild Houston program. He makes the distinction that ReBuild Houston is the funding mechanism, while the management of how a given project plays out is up to the city.
Costello is still keen on ReBuild as a funding model in which new projects are paid for in cash on a pay-as-you-go model. He says that in the next six years it will result in a $2 billion investment in the city.
With regard to project management, Costello says that by state law, the city is required to take the lowest qualified bidder – although for certain unique projects there’s a classification called ‘best value’, which takes into consideration construction price, qualifications, and time in which a job will be finished. Sometimes, Costello says, the city will hire an engineering firm for one component for a job and a different company for construction.
For the Rosslyn job, only P2MG, LLC is named by Public Works and Engineering. According to P2MG’s website, the company “was established in 2003 in Maryland and relocated to Houston in 2006. The firm is 100% minority-owned and certified with the City of Houston and the State of Texas as a historically underutilized business (HUB), HMSDC, HISD, METRO, and The Port of Houston.”
Costello said that residents with concerns have taken the appropriate first step by calling 3-1-1. He said the next step is to reach out to the appropriate council person – in this case Ellen Cohen – and also include the five At-large members in the correspondence.
“When there is more than one [council person] calling, there is sometimes a better response,” Costello said.
A last resort is coming downtown to a public session. “I’ve seen a lot of people come in and they’re frustrated but the council members get engaged and things really start to move.”
Hopefully, it won’t come to that for Oak Forest residents who just want to see progress.
“We appreciate the public’s patience,” said Julie Gilbert with Public Works. “It will be a much better street with much better drainage.”