Columbia County officials could take another 10 weeks before repairs are finished on a washed-out road that has cut off 14 homes in the Barrington neighborhood. But when all is said and done, the entire neighborhood might be asked to foot the bill.
Matt Schlachter, the county’s director of engineering services, told a group of homeowners Tuesday that work will begin later this week and that partial access to their section of Barrington could be restored within five weeks.
Schlachter said the plan is to install a large box culvert and rebuild the road as quickly as time and weather will permit. More rain will mean more delays.
“We are going to push this contract as hard as we can,” he said. “The only thing we can’t push is Mother Nature.”
Torrential rainfall overwhelmed a drainage pipe beneath Lake Stone Court on June 3, causing it to collapse. Storm waters washed away a section of road, leaving 14 homes isolated. Schlachter said the county has been moving as fast as possible to evaluate the engineering issues and come up with a plan to repair the damaged dam and road. A temporary gravel road has been built to allow access to the area by way of Watervale Road.
During the past five weeks, residents on that end of Lake Stone Court and Lake Stone Way have been getting their exercise hiking the half-mile or so to their houses with groceries and everything else they need for daily necessities.
Frank and Claire Stone said they have rented “his and hers” golf cars for errands to and from their cars, but others are walking and using bicycles, depending on their distance from the road.
Gene Renno said it hasn’t been a hardship, but more of an inconvenience.
Not long after the road was closed, he and his wife were sitting at home one evening and decided they wanted pizza.
When more than an hour passed and they were still waiting, he realized his mistake.
“About that time the pizza guy called and said he couldn’t get in (to our neighborhood),” Renno said, laughing at his mistake. “I completely forgot about it. It was just something that we would ordinarily do.”
Commission Chairman Ron Cross said the project costs have been estimated between $250,000 and $500,000, but because this is an emergency contract, officials won’t have a final total until the work is near completion.
Whatever the final cost, it might be that Barrington homeowners will ultimately pay the tab.
Cross said he thinks the county has a firm legal standing because land records place the responsibility of maintaining the dam on the shoulders of the developer and the homeowners, not the county. County engineers say it was the dam’s construction that failed, destroying the road.
Cross said the commission had a public safety obligation to restore the road and utilities as soon as possible, which is what they are doing. He said they also have a fiscal responsibility to all the taxpayers in Columbia County, which could mean recovering the repair costs from the 80-or-so Barrington homeowners.
Cross isn’t eager to get into that issue, but he thinks it will eventually have to be hashed out.
“It’s going to be a big can of worms,” he said.