On Wednesday, September 27th, we showed pictures sent to us by an Oxbow viewer of road construction and flooding on the street that they lives on. The viewer stated that no emergency vehicles could reach her house if there was an emergency. Now two residents, Billie Stout and Shelly Kowalski are speaking out about the Mayor's statement.
We reached out to the Oxbow Mayor and he sent us this statement:
Good morning Mr. Berg,
Thank you for the opportunity to share the City of Oxbow’s concerns regarding public safety as we continue to build on the certified flood project we so desperately need. Construction has been on-going for the past two years and we are beginning to see the end of the project drawing near. Although this project has undoubtedly caused some level of hardship to every resident of Oxbow, we continue to be amazed by the level of encouragement residents have shown. There is certainly a recognition and understanding that this work is being done in order to ensure that the level of flood-related destruction similar to 2009, 2010, and 2011 is behind us and not a part of our future.
Most recently, we have begun the process of removing the storm sewer drainage through the heart of the city on Oxbow Drive. A storm sewer system that previously drained everything to the Red River, needed to be completely removed and redesigned to drain in the opposite direction, into a holding pond. As a part of this project, the roadway needed to be completely removed while avoiding the main city water line to residents, which is also located under the roadway. As complicated construction projects go, that water line was never exactly where we thought it was. The third time that contractors broke through the water line we found ourselves in the middle of a “Perfect Storm”: the broken water line was in the center of the roadway, water to all residents needed to be shut down to expose the line as excavation began to repair the line; this is when the rain began to fall making not only construction conditions miserable, but also our one lane of traffic for residents very difficult. The on-site safety officers began to focus on resident safety over construction completion. Extreme measures were taken as the rain continued to fall. These measures included using pumps to evacuate water from the roadway while the rain continued to fall, importing dry base material to keep the driving surface firm, and, as needed, blading the driving surface to eliminate ruts and pot holes. As it turns out, the only real cure was the rain stopping and the sun shining.
In the midst of the “Perfect Storm,” the city council did meet to address the safety concerns of residents. Residents shared their concerns, with the primary concern being the ability of emergency responders to get to residents. The Cass County Sheriff Department was in attendance at our meeting, actively participating in the open discussion. The comment I remember from the Deputy was, “We have gotten emergency responders into worse situations.” This response put the council and residents at ease, but the take away from the meeting resulted in a meeting on the following morning at 7:15AM with the Safety Officer on the project, reinforcing the need for residential traffic being able to safety negotiate the temporary one lane roadway.
I am sure there are pictures of the one lane traffic during the height of the extremely difficult conditions, looking more like a monster truck mud run at the county fair than city infrastructure, but this period was brief and efforts to mitigate the effects of mother nature were certainly taken. I will supply pictures from Tuesday of this week, taken by Jason Benson from the Cass County team who was also at the site, as well as pictures that I took on Thursday afternoon. Conditions have dramatically improved, in large part due to the hard work of engineers, contractors, and the on-site safety officer. As a testament to their work, on Wednesday an errant flat bed sheetrock delivery truck following his GPS was able to drive the entire length of the roadway, turn around safely, and make his way out without incident, ultimately to be redirected by contractors to his correct final destination. If this doesn’t cause one to believe that a fire truck, ambulance, or Sheriff’s department vehicle could also navigate the one lane trail, I honestly don’t know what will.
Engineers originally designed a great plan utilizing both Oxbow Drive and Schnell Drive which would have allowed for two-way traffic on asphalt during most of this construction project. Due to the delays caused by the injunction, we were forced to use plan “B” once the work in our community was allowed to continue. The combination of mother nature and project opposition were both out of our control.
In conclusion, we are truly sorry for any inconvenience that our residents have experienced, but we are committed to safely and expeditiously moving toward the end result: flood protection for every resident.