O'Fallon Progress

O’Fallon culvert work underway; some residents upset with city

Jim Lamansky and his grandson, Henry Mojitz, 3, stand in a ditch on Long Drive that he has fallen in already.
Jim Lamansky and his grandson, Henry Mojitz, 3, stand in a ditch on Long Drive that he has fallen in already. rkirsch@bnd.com

A handful of local residents in O’Fallon are up in arms, or in tears, over the culvert work in the neighborhoods along Easton, Long and Famous drives that the city is doing.

“I’ve been here since 1978, and they were here before me, and we’ve never had any water drainage issues here, and now the city is digging very deep, v-shaped ditches that are very wide too, and it’s just horrible,” resident Jim Lemansky said.

He describes his efforts to get answers from city staff and Mayor Gary Graham as disappointing.

“I asked the guy (working), ‘Do you know you have two people in tears, as old as they are, and myself you just have me mad, not because you’re doing a service to the citizens and the taxpayers, but because you’re tearing up our yards for no reason,” Lemansky said.

Much to his dismay, Lemansky said he has called and visited city hall multiple times but to no avail, he hadn’t had his calls returned or questions answered until this week, two months after the digging began in July.

“The city had two guys come out (Monday) morning, Jeff Taylor and another, and they were very understanding and reasonable, nice to talk to, but I’m not letting them off the hook that easy until I see them doing something to make it better,” Lemansky said.

He went on to say, O’Fallon Public Works director Jeff Taylor made a suggestion of replacing the two culverts on Easton Drive to alleviate the issue.

“They say the culverts are too low and that replacing them may help so the ditches don’t have to be so deep, but I guess we will see what the city approves because those culverts lie under asphalt driveways, so are they going to restore the driveways too if they replace the culverts?” Lemansky said.

Lemansky said he appreciates Taylor’s efforts to visit his neighborhood, but is still skeptical of what the outcome may be.

“We do not and never have had a water drainage problem here, so why would you tear people’s yards up like this? If we had a problem I would call the city myself and ask them to get down here and do something about this, but we don’t,” Lemansky said. “They could patch the streets, they could clear the culverts — the culverts are the problem, not the ditches. I had a screen in front of mine to catch the leaves and what not, but mine’s not bad because I had mine replaced when I had the driveway re-asphalted a couple years ago,” he said.

We are actively looking into the concerns to try and come up with constructive ways to clean this all up.

O’Fallon Public Works director Jeff Taylor

The city will continue to move forward with the project with no completion date slated, according to Taylor. He did not have an estimate of the total cost of the project.

“We are actively looking into the concerns to try and come up with constructive ways to clean this all up,” Taylor said.

Of the 146 homes in the subdivision, only a handful of complaints have been made, which Taylor said are focused to the group of folks on Easton Drive.

“I don’t disagree that maybe all that is needed is to maybe replace a couple of culverts and I’m really open with people and trying to make this work for everyone involved,” Taylor said.

One resident, also on Easton Drive, Theresa Kuca, is one of the neighbors who was in tears after seeing her grass and ditch being dug out. She mentioned wanting a guard rail along her newly dug ditch because she fears it will present a public safety issue with motorists, walkers and those mowing lawns.

“They started and haven’t come back for two days, I think they’re doing this on purpose just to aggravate me,” Kuca said.

Taylor said the city has several projects going on so public works staff members aren’t available to work on every project everyday.

“We are trying to restore the culverts back to the original state they were in when the subdivision started (decades ago) and increase their visibility,” Taylor said.

Some of the existing culverts along Easton, Long and Famous Drives, which are side streets branching from Hartman Lane were causing issue when it rains, he said.

“Essentially we are grading the ditches at a minimum slope, and digging just down to the culverts so the water will run through them not over or around them,” Taylor said.

According to city criteria, the front slope is supposed to be a three-to-one ratio, which means for every three-foot horizontal distance a drop of one-foot vertically; and, for a back slope the measurements are to be no greater than a two-to-one ratio, so for every two-foot horizontal distance a drop of one-foot vertically.

“I re-evaluated (Monday) morning, and they all meet criteria,” Taylor said. “So it makes it steeper on the back.”

Lemansky said a natural slope exists on Easton Drive going downward toward Hartman Lane, so he doesn’t understand why they would need to dig into the earth farther down unnecessarily.

“Why are you digging it up, the only place it floods is on Hartman Lane on the concrete. The water runs down there on the street, and once in a while water will sit on Hartman Lane but it’ll go down pretty fast,” Lemansky said.

Taylor said, the city is trying to avoid just that — water running on the street.

“We are digging down to the existing culverts and we have to get down to them so the water will run through the culverts when it rains and not in our city’s streets,” Taylor said. “Most of the culverts were completely clogged, and some, especially on Easton, you couldn’t even see them.”

Kuca said she wishes there was more oversight on the project.

“This is a nice subdivision and now it looks horrible. There’s no uniformity,” she said. “Somebody should have overseen this, we pay taxes here, and we should have been asked about this. In other neighborhoods they just scoop it and leave everything intact.”

Taylor said the city is looking into reestablishing vegetation on the slopes to bring the landscaping back up to par as it was.

Lemansky said despite Taylor’s visit, “I won’t stop fighting for my neighborhood, and especially for my neighbors who are too old to be going back and forth with the city on this.”

Betty Williamson of Easton Drive said she was one of the first to live in the subdivision in the 1950s, and that was 61 years ago.

“I just wish they would’ve talked with us about it first or at least told us it was coming instead of showing up one day digging up my neighbor’s yards, and soon mine, and then coming back when they feel like it,” Williamson said.

Robyn L. Kirsch: 618-239-2690, @BND_RobynKirsch