Sewer separation causes continued complaints from residents

Chester Street residents are concerned about the trees being removed for sewer separation construction.

The Southside sewer separation project began in Ottumwa years ago, and it still has years to go.

A combination of construction, road closures, inconvenience and the project's priority over neighborhood trees has ruffled more than a few feathers around town, most recently for the residents on Chester Street.

As sewer separation work progressed down their street, several trees obstructed the path of construction and were slated for removal. With the majority of sewer and street repair work being on area designated for community use, pipes, water mains and utility work get the right of way.

"There were some residents recently that were very concerned about losing the trees in their neighborhood and asked the city council to take a look at the way that was handled," said Tom Rodgers, Ottumwa Public Information Officer.

The council should take residents' feedback and concern as a learning opportunity, because the situation is likely to repeat itself. With years still left to go on the project, this won't be the last time concerned residents speak up. Going forward, remedying the situation has much to do with communication.

"When the city council discussed, there was still some, I guess, concern about the method of notification and the way that's handled and there will probably be some review of that in the near future," Rodgers said.

A lot of work is currently taking place near Evans Middle School, shifting concern to the construction schedule, and whether or not work will be done in time for back to school.

"Most of the calls in the last few weeks - will that lane be open for school?" said Larry Seals, Ottumwa's Director of Public Works. "The way the school is set up, they drop the sixth graders off at that side of the building. We've always worked with the school system well. We're going to have a meeting at the end of next week to see where we're at in construction and if we have to then we'll modify what the school's doing. They've been really good to work with and fluent, we've been working around them for two years now."

Ottumwa was given 25 years to complete the sewer separation project, so construction and frustration is not over yet. But the city says it will work harder for better communication with residents.