Thursday, February 22, 2007

Progress on utilities upgrades temporarily halts, MUD overwhelms

Photo: a home in Mapleton Hollow with one of the new "monster" utility pannels installed.

MUD has been on everyone's mind since the infrastructure upgrades began in Mapleton Hollow this fall. To be sure, the promise of once-again paved streets and problem-free water, electrical, telephone and cable services gives everyone in the park something to look forward to, but at the present moment, there's no denying it: the road conditions, made waterlogged by the recent snows, suck. One gripe residents have as well, (not withstanding their relief and gratitude to have basic services) are the size of the utility meters: not two feet high, as was promised, but over five feet; large enough to require decoration and to become "objects of derision".

A meeting was recently held at Thistle Community housing on February 17 to address the state of the upgrades as well as residents' mud concerns.

Present at the meeting were Jim Harrington of Thistle, Special Projects manager; Chris Doyle, infrastructure project coordinator, and many members of the MHA. At least 30 people crowded Thistle's meeting room to listen to Chris and Jim outline the next phase of infrastructure, and especially what Thistle was going to do to help make conditions better for park residents.

As many people in the park are aware, infrastructure work suddenly stopped in the middle of February due to funding issues, right-of-way issues with the Farmers' ditch, as well as impossibly cold conditions making trenching difficult.

Chris Doyle outlined that before work began on any other section of the park, the current phases 1 and 2, roads with their southernmost entrances on Mapleton and Folsom, would have to be fully completed, including paved. Part of the problem is that the frost is so deep it is impossible to dig water and sewer lines in a cost-effective manner. Chris added that Individual gas and utilities hookups to homes 1-35B would continue during the frosty season.

The decision to halt the infrastructure work came after a review of the project's finances revealed ballooning costs due to the complications of digging in frozen ground, as well as the cost of extra copper piping (water lines installed around existing trees) for at least 19 homes. Another issue that needed to be resolved was the proper crafting of legal agreements between Thistle Community Housing and the ditch company (Name??) who owns water rights for the Farmers' Ditch that runs through the park. Some of the park's water mains are routed directly under the ditch.

The issue foremost on residents' minds, however, was the inconvenience caused by the mud, as well as having safe access from their homes to their cars and the city streets. One resident, who has problems walking, reported not being able to leave her house for fear of getting trapped in the deep mud. Others have found their cars stuck, boots sucked off, and still more city residents have been complaining that the mud migrates out to the pavement on Mapleton and Folsom, causing problems. Light poles have been installed in the muddy streets, though there were some outages; and low water pressure to some residents' homes has been an issue.

Chris took suggestions about how to make the mud live-able, as well as proposing that an immediate gravel sidewalk be placed on the west side of the roadway in phases one and two. He also said he would order the replacement of the pedestrian bridge linking the central part of the park with the muddy sections, giving residents an alternate way to walk out of the mess.

The idea of placing temporary and non-permanent barriers at the street entrances announcing "local traffic only" was proposed as a way of reducing mud. Fewer cars traveling over the mud would mitigate the "churning" effect of mud and snow, Chris stated. He did not know if spreading straw over the mud would change anything, as the mud has been swallowing up everything in sight, returning to a soggy, gooey mass with foot-high tire trenches after every snowfall.

The MHA and Thistle are in conversation with the City of Boulder, the State Division of Housing and the Mapleton Home Association to meet the funding shortfall that plagues the project gap.

On February 15, Aaron Miripol, director of Thistle Community Housing, Jim Harrington, Chris Doyle and Kurt Bischoff of the MHA did a walk-through of the park with John Pollak, head of the City of Boulder's division of housing. They discussed the importance of the Mapleton Infrastructure. It was agreed that both the South side and North sides of the park needed to be completed in a timely manner and that all parties should go forward with getting costing and additional Grants for Federal, State and COB to finish both sides of the park. (Currently, there had been plans to complete the north side of the park in several years' time, when enough money had been saved).

No comments: