Karen James stated her house was purchased by her father back in 1963, and it has been in her family ever since; they live in Brevard County, but they feel a little overlooked in Port St. John these days as they see all of the things going on in Viera and other places; and they are here to talk about the drainage problem on their street. She went on to say their property is the most affected because the drain from the street goes down the west side of the property into, it used to be an open ditch behind the house, and somewhere along the line in the 1980's, the County came along and put pipes in the ditch, covered it over, and made an easement that said that the community could move their fences back if they wanted to. She stated everyone up to their house moved their fences back; people to the east of them chose not to, which has created an alley behind the properties; and now the drainage system is failing.
Jackson Scott stated Commissioner Fisher came to their house, and many months later nothing has been done.
Ms. James stated in the picture there is a barricade they put up to keep people from falling in the hole. She went on to add they built a temporary shelter on the side of their yard for their boat, and another sink hole is now forming underneath the shelter because the site pipes are failing as well.
Mr. Scott stated they reported that in January and no one has come back; he showed Commissioner Fisher when he was at his home; and no one has come back to assess that hole. He stated this pipe was sleeved 20 years ago and said they were waiting for money at that time to replace that drainage system.
Ms. James stated someone told her father who died in 2010 at the age of 92 that there was no money then, and that is the answer they continue to receive. She stated they are not asking for that much; they are not asking for someone to put in a whole new drainage system; and they just want the one that is there to work. She went on to say if a hurricane comes through, all of the property in the area is going to flood; her property is the most affected; but her neighbors pool is going to crumble because the ground is shifting. She pointed out she wants to bring it before the Board so this is public record; they have written letters to Commissioner Fisher and Stockton Whitten, County Manager; and they have done everything they can in their power.
Mr. Scott stated he understands the County has a lot of problems; Commissioner Fisher bowed up in his face and told him if he would ask kindly the problem would be fixed; he told Commissioner Fisher he was asking him kindly; and Commissioner Fisher tried to get him in a fight. He noted all they are trying to do is get stuff fixed, and they just keep getting ignored.
Ms. James stated her husband is very emotional, and when he believes in something he goes all out; and that is why she is here today.
Commissioner Infantini inquired if Ms. James would show her which property is theirs.
Mr. James stated by looking at this picture, they just mowed a month ago; and they knocked his neighbors fence down, and he called and they came and replaced the slats. He went on to say a representative from Road and Bridge says the County cannot cut this because it is so dangerous they may fall in; they pulled a Bush Hog back through this area; and they could not come to this area because it may collapse. He pointed out a string trimmer or lawn mower could be used to cut this area; and this is out of control.
Stockton Whitten, County Manager, stated the men and women of Road and Bridge are putting in 40-plus hour weeks; but staff can give the Board their side of the issue.
John Denninghoff, Public Works Director, stated the right-of-way in question is a drainage right-of-way that has existed from the time that Port St. John was platted; Ms. James was correct when she said it was piped as it was originally an open ditch; it is a 24-inch metal pipe, which has now rusted out, is what it has boiled down to; and in order to replace it, the cost would run over $300,000, and to return it to a ditch condition would cost approximately $130,000. He went on to add there are a few sheds in the drainage right-of-way; they are not there legally; they were not placed there with benefit of any kind of permit or any sort of authorization by the County; in addition, the comment about the pool, he has not examined it carefully so he cannot give a professional opinion regarding that matter; and the pool situation is unlikely to be associated with the pipe. He pointed out the cost of such a pipe, when the County has others that are under roads that are failing that would inhibit transportation, it does not rise to quite the same level of priority as those types; there are many pipes throughout the County that staff has had to replace without advanced warning that the pipe was going to fail; and staff has done about 15 of those throughout the year, as well as the ones that are already planned. He went on to say putting together a budget to cover a $300,000 expense is a rather difficult matter.
Commissioner Infantini stated at one point in time the County had roughly $10 million to spend on roads, drainage, and things; the applicants explained this issue has been going on for a long time; and she inquired why, when the Board had the $10 million to be spent on District 1, that it was not appropriated at that time.
Mr. Denninghoff replied the condition of the pipes is not always well known; in this particular case, the functioning of the drainage system is still there; assertions that somehow the homes are going to flood are not well founded; and he is just dealing with facts and little emotion. He noted his men work at least 40 hours a week, and they do a good job; he stands behind his staff; and they do the best they can with the resources they have. He pointed out the pipe is still functioning, but it is in serious condition; and it will reach a point where it will not function properly. He stated at that time, something will have to be done.
Commissioner Fisher stated if anyone has fixed pipes and roads in the County, it is probably he in his District as he has paved over 400 streets, and the County spent over $10 million on paving roads in front of people's homes who had not had their road paved in years. He stated he will not apologize for that. He stated he probably has a $40 million need with $10 million; never having enough money to take care of the needs, and County staff tries to get to them as soon as they can; he acknowledges Ms. James and Mr. Scott's pipe is a problem; and what has escalated this issue is there are sheds in the way that actually should not be there. He stated they will be prioritized and be replaced as fast as possible.
Chairman Barfield inquired if there is a way to keep that pipe from caving in and causing a major drainage problem until the funding can be obtained to replace the pipe.
Mr. Denninghoff responded staff has performed isolated or spot repairs at a number of locations on this part of the system, and staff can continue to do that; it is not the most efficient way to go about it, but it helps secure it; but it relies on being able to find reasonably good condition pipes somewhere in the proximity of the area that has actually failed. He stated it is difficult to estimate the expense associated with those; in this case staff would wind up going in and pulling out a section of pipe, putting in a new piece, and doing that at a variety of locations; and to do that would be very costly, but when staff came in to do the complete repair they would take almost all of that newer pipe out as well. He pointed out they use concrete pipe now, which has a much longer life span; and when there is a spot repaired, they can find good concrete very close by. He stated this is a result of using less expensive materials in the past; and the County is paying the price.
Commissioner Fisher stated there is going to be a budget approval soon; he thinks his Municipal Service Taxing Unit (MSTU) even though there is a decreased tax rate; that could help fix the backlog of all of the things District 1 has; but if he gets Commissioners fighting him on budgets, it does not allow to do the things this lady and gentleman wants to do with MSTU's and stuff; and he thinks his MSTU will be increased.
Chairman Barfield explained the Board is discussing the budget right now; it will be approved by the end of September; at that point it will know exactly what is there; and someone will get in touch with the citizens regarding this issue.
The Board acknowledge the Citizen Request by Karen James and Jackson Scott; and directed the Public Works Director to contact Karen James and Jackson Scott at a later date to discuss failure of the drainage system between Barclay Drive and Jersey Street in Port St. John.