EAGAR – The first major sidewalk project in Eagar since Main Street has begun, but it has not gone quite as smoothly as everyone hoped it would. Residents from First, Second and Third avenues were initially happy to learn about the new sidewalks that were being put in along their streets as part of Eagar’s plans to make the area more functional and beautiful.
But that sentiment changed to concern as the first sidewalks went in and mud began to make their driveways impassable. Many of the residents came to the town council meeting on January 7 to voice their concerns, which included difficulty accessing their properties, the mud, and issues concerning drainage. The new sidewalks have also already begun to crack, the residents reported.
Angie Madrid, who lives on the corner of Third Avenue and Main, said she is concerned with the drainage and the lack of a raised curb on the new sidewalks. “I’m concerned with whether the construction was done adequately, as it was supposed to be,” Madrid said in an interview. “There are a lot of issues I don’t think they took into consideration.”
The new sidewalks do not feature a raised curb and will be flush and even with the streets once the avenues are repaved.
The town council was responsive to residents’ concerns during the meeting and promised to look into the issues raised.
“The day after the meeting, I went by there, and then the (town) manager went by there with the head of our roads department,” Mayor Bryce Hamblin said in a telephone interview. “There’s no additional water. What it is, is there’s additional mud.”
Gaps filled with dirt currently remain alongside the new sidewalks until the road repaving can be finished. Excavation for the new sidewalks turned up the old soil which had, for decades, been packed down and covered over the years with layers of gravel. Once the earth was overturned and removed – along with the gravel– all that remained was fluffy, tilled dirt which absorbed the water and turned into slick mud on both sides of the new pavement, causing problems for the residents.
To remedy the situation, the town hauled in several loads of rock to restore the missing gravel layer so that residents would no longer get stuck in their driveways. Residents seem pleased with the temporary fix for now, as well as the timely response by the town. The loads of gravel arrived shortly after town council members visited the neighborhood to investigate the complaints.
As for the sidewalk cracking, the mayor confirmed that there are issues. Delays put the construction much later in the year than desired, and the cold may have contributed to the cracking issues. “It’ll be spring before we really assess what happened, what all has cracked, and what all needs to be fixed,” Mayor Hamblin said.
There was also some confusion on the issue of the type of curbs put in along the sidewalks, from residents as well as from council members. Originally, the council voted for the project with rolled curbing, a type of raised but rounded curb, with the idea of allowing easier off-street parking while contributing to the channeling of water. This type of curb was not what was ultimately put in on the streets, as evidenced by the flush curb, called ribbon curbing, that exists now.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that we were told it was a rolled curb, and that’s what we were doing,” Mayor Hamblin said by phone. At the time of the interview, the mayor was reviewing council meeting minutes to see where the disconnect occurred between what the council understood was to happen and what did happen in construction.
The Independent requested and was given access to documents of the project from planning and zoning, and the plans did show rolled curbing when the project was approved initially. On September 23 and 26 however, addendums to the project were filed to change it to ribbon curb, which is a type of non-raised curbing that is flush with the level of the street.
The addendums that changed the curbs were done on advice from Painted Sky engineering, which found that installing rolled curbing could actually exacerbate potential flooding issues.
“One of the problems was the drainage,” Jeremiah Loyd, the Administrator of Planning and Zoning for the town of Eagar, explained. “There was never money allocated to mitigate the drainage, so the only way to do it was what they did: by doing ribbon curbs.”
Addressing the drainage with methods such as storm drains or gutter systems, which are the usual and preferred methods, would have “drastically increased the cost” of the project, to the point that “maybe one” street would have seen a new sidewalk. Since money was not allocated for it, the project went forward on the decisions made by the engineers on how to best handle water and run-off.
“There won’t be any drainage issues when it’s all said and done,” Town Manager Terry Hinton said by telephone interview. “The design was to mostly put the water right where it is going now and not change that, and some of the improvements we make on it will actually help.”
The combination of the engineered road grade and new, smooth pavement should shed the water even more effectively than it used to.
The construction on the roads and sidewalks on First, Second and Third avenues is expected to resume sometime around April. Future expansions of sidewalks for the town of Eagar are expected to continue, with $250,000 going towards new sidewalks and curbs. In the future, however, more careful consideration will be given on the time of year that projects begin to ensure a better-quality result.
Amber Shepard is a local journalist covering municipal governments and other Apache County topics.