H Street improvements irk one Blaine couple

Published on Wed, Aug 31, 2011 by Jeremy Schwartz

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The Angells’ RV is stuck following the H Street improvements. Photo courtesy of Ted and Elisabeth Angell.

The recently completed H Street project may have smoothed the stretch just east of the Cost Cutter shopping center and added a center turn lane, but the upgrades have also ruffled the feathers of one Blaine couple.

Ted and Elisabeth Angell live on the north side of H Street just east of Odell. On Saturday, July 16, after the majority of the work was done, they had planned to take a trip with their small RV.

When backing out, however, the Angells found the H Street construction had steepened the last section of their driveway, making it impossible for the couple to continue down their driveway without damaging their RV’s undercarriage. The Angells said they’ve owned the RV for 12 years and had never before had any problems backing out.

“We are landlocked,” Elisabeth Angell said.

In June, the Angells said they had cautioned Blaine’s public works department and the engineering contractor for the project, Reichhardt and Ebe Engineering, that the then-unpaved incline leading to their driveway would be too steep. Both the engineer for the project and Blaine public works staff assured the Angells the incline would not be a problem and that the perceived steepness was an “optical illusion.”

After the Angells personally delivered a letter explaining their predicament to Blaine’s public works offices on July 18, Blaine public works director Steve Banham visited their home to see the driveway for himself. Though it would ultimately cost the city, Banham assured the Angells their driveway would be fixed.

“They could have avoided this, if they had listened to us,” Ted Angell said.

Ted Angell said he doesn’t understand why Blaine city manager Gary Tomsic has not been in contact with them about this issue. The Angells said they feel they are low on the city’s list of priorities.

Blaine assistant public works director Bill Bullock said he has been in regular contact with the Angells to update them on the progress of their driveway repair. On August 30, he said the project should at least be started by the end of the week.

It all depends on when Colacurcio Brothers Construction, the company that renovated H Street and who is ultimately responsible for the driveway repair, can schedule time with their asphalt contractor.

However, this is the second week in a row the city has said the fix will get done “this week,” the Angells said.

“If it doesn’t get done this week, I’m going to picket city hall,” Elisabeth Angell said.

Bullock said the change order for the driveway repair work will not require a city council vote. Only change orders totaling more than $15,000 require such a vote, and Bullock estimates the repair will cost between $3,000 and $4,000.

The Angells said they think the contractors should be on the hook for paying for the repairs, not the city and, ultimately, Blaine’s taxpayers. Ted Angell, who has a background in engineering, said a contractor’s errors and omissions insurance is designed for just this sort of thing.

Bullock said the work to repair the Angells’ driveway is not necessarily an errors and omissions insurance issue because the contractors involved did not deviate from industry standard in replacing the Angells’ driveway. Though not the exact same grade as the original, Bullock said the reinstalled driveway is acceptable according to city code.

“The driveway repair we did was appropriate and meets current standards,” Bullock said.

Bullock said the issue was the Angells’ unique RV and its relatively low ground clearance. He said the Angells clearly have no problem getting their two other cars up the driveway.

“With a 15-passenger-van-type motorhome with greater ground clearance, it wouldn’t be an issue,” Bullock said.

However, the bottom line is that city of Blaine will fix the Angells’ driveway, Bullock said. The city will continue to work with the Angells to make sure the driveway is repaired to their satisfaction.

“They’ve been an interesting couple,” Bullock said. “You do the best you can to accommodate their concerns and make things right.”