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    Street project grates on residents

    Some who live on Boyer Street in Tarpon Springs say a five-month utility project is unsettling their lives.

    By KATHERINE GAZELLA

    © St. Petersburg Times, published September 29, 2000


    TARPON SPRINGS -- Nearly five months after work began to replace underground utilities on a Tarpon Springs street, residents are growing increasingly frustrated.

    The delays on Boyer Street have been caused by rains that sometimes flood the low-lying street, aging pipes that caused unexpected problems and a surveyor's error that required an extra week of work, city officials and the contractor say.

    "It turned out to be a more cumbersome project than anyone expected," said Joseph DiPasqua, development services director for the city.

    Dana Freitag, who lives at Boyer and Banana streets, is so familiar with the construction machines and vehicles that she can imitate the sounds they make.

    "It's kind of sad," she said.

    Freitag has watched the progress of the work with dismay.

    The street has flooded, andshe has ants in her house for the first time in the three years she has lived there. Construction often shakes her house and has caused heirloom vases to break, she said.

    "I've had to deal with constant noise, constant aggravation," said Freitag, 42. "It has just been a nightmare."

    A surveyor working as a subcontractor on the project made a 2-foot error with the alignment of a sewer line, which had to be taken out and reinstalled, said Miller Manier, project manager for Southwest Contracting of Oldsmar.

    The error set the project back a week, he said.

    The contractor will absorb the cost of the surveyor's error, said Richard Hague, an engineering technician for the city. Manier said the project also has been set back by an aging infrastructure. Some of the lines conflicted with each other and caused unexpected problems, he said.

    The company still has about 30 days remaining before the 180-day contract period expires. The project should be completed within the next couple of weeks, Manier said.

    "Sometimes things don't go as scheduled," Manier said. "People are going to make mistakes."

    DiPasqua was reluctant to blame Southwest for the problems.

    "I think they could have handled things better, we could have handled things better," he said. "We ultimately just want the project completed."

    In late June, city officials said the work would continue at least six more weeks. But three months after they said that and aboutfive months after work began, the street is still torn up.

    Freitag said she is tired of the unsightly road and the nearly constant noise. Today, someone from Southwest's insurance company is scheduled to come to her house to inspect the broken vases, cracked hearth tiles and dented floor.

    She wants compensation for the damage, but more than anything, she wants the work to be completed and for everything to return to normal. It's been a long time since she could open her blinds and look out at the pretty neighborhood.

    "It feels like a lifetime," she said.

    -- Staff writer Katherine Gazella can be reached at (727) 445-4182 or gazella@sptimes.com.

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