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Brookfield road construction project leads to messy fix and, ultimately, a policy change

Feb. 13, 2013

A summer repaving project has ended with a stream of complaints from unhappy residents, including one who confronted the Board of Public Works on Tuesday about the way the city of Brookfield handles landscaping restoration after construction.

Alderman Scott Berg submitted a proposal to change the city's practices after constituents in his district reached out to him after the construction project.

"During the summer of 2012, repaving of Brookdale Drive and North Hills Drive, there were several resident complaints about unrestored disturbance to the roadside landscaping," Berg noted in his proposal. "This primarily consisted of failing to grade new fill dirt at the road's edge and no seeding of that dirt."

Jan Cobus, who has lived in the 19000 block of North Hills Drive for nearly 50 years, was more stark in his description of the construction's aftermath. He said the city left a pile of top soil that runs from the edge of the road to about five feet over a ditch into his front lawn.

The city essentially left it to him to finish the job, including property grading and relandscaping the area between the road and the ditch, which runs about 20 feet along his property, he said. That's something he has no plans to do.

"They told me that it was the homeowner's responsibility," Cobus said. "They said I had to grade it, feed it, and mulch it. I told them it would be a cold day in you know where before that happens, especially when they had all of their heavy equipment out there."

The city mailed letters before the start of the project informing homeowners that the disturbed property would be the homeowner's responsibility, as stated in the current policy.

Cobus said he reached out to the city before, during, and after the project to voice his concerns, but said that he was not satisfied with what he was told.

"You say this is policy, but policy is not the law," Cobus told the board on Tuesday, showing pictures of the ungraded soil on his property.

"To leave ungraded top soil on 20 feet of a person's ditch is ridiculous," Cobus said.

The ungraded soil was not the only post-construction issue left for neighbors.

"A second issue was that the road paving raised the roadbed several inches, making a few of the mailboxes out of compliance with Postal Service height regulations, through no fault of the residents," Berg wrote.

Cobus addressed that with the board, also.

"Everyone on both sides of North Hills and Brookdale had to move their mailboxes," he said. "It's not a matter of cost, but a matter of labor. Moving a mailbox post is not an easy task and there are a lot of elderly in this neighborhood."

To address those concerns, Berg proposed an updated policy that allows the city to restore turf adjacent to the road disturbed during construction, including seed and mulch. The original policy only included topsoil.

Jeff Chase, city engineer, told the board the policy revision would cost an estimated $35,000 extra annually, depending on cross-section roadway work.

The five-member board voted unanimously (with Berg and Aldermen Jerry Mallone serving as alternates for Alderman Bill Carnell and Mayor Steve Ponto) to approve the policy revision.

However, the policy is proactive, meaning Cobus's lawn will still be left ungraded.

Cobus told the board he will not comply and that his property will remain as is.

"To the extent that we don't get voluntary compliance, we'll make a judgment as to what enforcement action, if any, might be appropriate to bring that particular property to compliance," Chase said.

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