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City addresses drainage problem, hears updates on new businesses

Brookhaven aldermen gave the green light recently for engineers to remedy a decade-old sewer problem in the Meadowbrook neighborhood.

That will be good news to homeowner Steve Brown, a man who has the city’s engineer on speed-dial and the patience of Job.

Brown lives on West Meadowbrook Drive next to a drainage ditch.

“There’s a manhole in his backyard that every time it rains more than just a little bit, it’s prone to overflow,” said City Engineer Mike McKenzie, a principal at WGK Engineering.

McKenzie said Public Works Director Keith Lewis installed a backflow preventer in it years ago to keep the wastewater from backing up into Brown’s home.

For years, Brown and his wife would temporarily relocate to an inherited house in town whenever it rained.

“They had a second house in town that they could retreat to that the plumbing would still work on,” he said. “Literally, he has been patient as Job for decades.”

McKenzie said the problem needs addressing.

“It’s not getting any better. It’s getting worse if anything because as we know sewer systems continue to degrade,” he said. “All the sewer from the northeast corner of town goes to Field Lark Lane pumping station and then gets pumped into the upstream end of the line that runs right past his house.”

McKenzie last week offered aldermen two possible solutions.

“You could go up into the northeast part of town and spend an untold amount of money to try to stop all that INI coming into the sewer line,” he said, referring to inflow and infiltration which is sewage and groundwater. “I can’t tell you how much that would cost.”

However, McKenzie could put a price tag on the second, more-preferred option — $800,000 to $1 million.

It involves reworking about 4,000 feet of line downstream under Hwy. 550, a railroad track and Brookway Boulevard to an area behind Stan King Chevrolet. The line from Stan King to Halbert Heights Road was replaced in 2007.

“You make a bigger line. You effectively make the drain and the pipe bigger so it can take the water and it doesn’t overflow,” he said.

The switch includes increasing the 12-inch pipe to 15-inch, which carries 60 percent more water. That lets the water flow downstream quicker, he said.

It’s not just Brown’s home that will see an improvement.

Ward 5 Alderman Fletcher Grice said several residents are seeing sewage back up into their homes when it rains.

McKenzie said the board must eventually tackle the problem of clay lines in that area of the city.

“That whole line through there is eat up with roots and blockages, that’s why y’all have had to put backflow preventers on three or four houses going up the hill there,” he said. “We’re eventually going to have to go in there and root out all those roots and either line it, and/or replace that whole neighborhood in there. It’s just a matter of how long can we keep putting this off? How long can we kick it down the road? When can (City Clerk) Samantha (Melancon) afford to pay for it? You’ll be rehabbing the whole Meadowbrook Subdivision at some point and time.”

City Inspector David Fern said The Aspen of Brookhaven assisted living facility was placed on that line three years ago and more land is available north of that neighborhood for development.

McKenzie said that’s not a concern.

“The problem is the rain. This never happens when it’s not raining,” he said. “That line is completely fine. It can handle everything that comes to it when it’s not raining, including the Aspen, and probably including four more Aspens. That ain’t the problem. But when it rains, now you’ve got an issue. That’s a recurrent theme across the whole part of the city. Your sewer lines are sitting there slowly going away from you and there’s going to be a day of reckoning all over town to where you’ll have to start doing a lot of rehab all over town.”

Mayor Joe Cox suggested looking at an 18-inch line rather than a 12-inch to prepare for 20 years down the road, but McKenzie said the 15-inch line would be sufficient and cost considerably less. A larger line would require larger bores under Brookway Boulevard, the railroad tracks and Hwy. 550.

The board voted 7-0 to authorize McKenzie to begin the project and for the mayor to sign any easements needed.

McKenzie expects the project to be completed within the year if all goes smoothly.

Grice said aldermen will likely vote to amend the 2020 budget to reflect the cost of the project, while some of the cost will be included in the fiscal year 2021 budget.

New development

Fern updated aldermen about three business construction projects underway.

The Dollar General going up on Industrial Park Road Northeast is about 75 percent complete.

Harbor Freight in the space on Brookway Boulevard that formerly held Fred’s is expected to open this week, he said. Workers began stocking the store last week.

Fern said he is waiting on approval of plans to build a freestanding restaurant in front of Home Depot for Los Parrilleros. The architect is sending plans, he said.

Fern did not know if this will be a second location for the Mexican restaurant, which is located behind Wendy’s in a strip mall, or if owners will move operations to the new building.