Colonial Heights residents question 'completeness' of annexation work

Matthew Lane • Jan 31, 2018 at 11:24 AM

KINGSPORT — Kingsport officials recently announced that the plan of services for the Colonial Heights annexation area had been completed and done so by the deadline.

However, that doesn't necessarily mean all of the work in Colonial Heights is done. Nor does it mean that everyone is hooked up to the city's sewer system.

Background info

Between 2010 and 2012, Kingsport annexed more than 3,600 residents in Colonial Heights. As with all annexations, Kingsport laid out a plan of services for each area. It's basically a list of services the city promises to provide by certain dates.

Some services (like police and fire protection) go into effect immediately. Other services take longer. In the case of sanitary sewer, Kingsport says it will be installed and extended within five years.

For the most recent annexation in Colonial Heights, that deadline was Dec. 21, 2017.

Sewer notifications

Assistant City Manager Ryan McReynolds said all of the sewer lines and pump stations in the most recent annexation area were complete and operational by this date.

Then why aren't the folks in the Chesterfield neighborhood hooked up to the city's sewer system?

Residents are responsible and required to obtain a sewer tap from the city before connecting to the sewer system. Kingsport sends out letters to annexed residents essentially telling them the work is done and that they can now tap on.

However, those letters were only recently mailed.

According to the city's finance department, letters were sent on Jan. 22 to 121 homes in Colonial Heights and on Jan. 29 to another 134. For the folks in Chesterfield, their letters are expected to go out on Feb. 5.

“These projects ... became completed at a very hectic time ... property tax time and Christmas (which with past projects, property owners get very upset with me when I send them out around Christmas),” said Rose Byington in the city's finance department. “I thought I was helping the property owners and myself by waiting until later to send these projects out.”

Normally, the letters are sent a couple of weeks after the work is done.

Neighborhood complaints

Brian Castle, who lives in Chesterfield, makes no bones about it. He did not want to be annexed and is not happy about the situation.

“You've kept our money for five years and we didn't want it to begin with. Then you brag about being done when you're not done. That's what makes us so hot,” Castle said. “If they would have initiated (annexation) in the right way and let us vote on it, it would have been one thing.”

Castle, who works from home, said work was taking place by multiple crews after the Dec. 21 deadline, both in the neighborhood and at a nearby pump station. A sewer inspection company was also in the Chesterfield neighborhood last week, Castle said.

“When you do a job and call it complete, you're ready to walk away from it,” Castle said.

Phyllis Hansen and her husband bought their retirement home on Belvedere Lane in 2003 and were annexed in August 2012. Utility work began in their neighborhood last fall and according to Hansen, workers are still in there tearing things up.

“They totally destroyed our yard and did a horrible job in the so called ‘landscaping’ when they finished,” Hansen said. “They were supposed to put in good fill, and they stuck some kind of stuff that looks like something off the bottom of a pond.”

Kingsport's response

McReynolds said there are cleanup issues in these annexation areas that will be taken care of, work that's common to all construction projects. Though this work is taking place after the deadline, it's not consequential to the city meeting its plan of services, he added.

Kingsport requires contractors to video inspect all sewer lines before the final payment and fix any issues that may arise through the inspection. During a recent inspection, McReynolds said the contractor discovered an issue with the sewer line entering the pump station near the Chesterfield neighborhood and last week worked to repair the problem.

“There was no disruption of sewer service during the repair,” McReynolds said. “This is common to all construction projects and is performed on a routine basis within our existing sewer system.”

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