By Seth Littrell
Register News Writer
Whenever Richmond gets heavy rain, Jenifer Maupin, a resident of Sunset Avenue, props a large piece of lumber up at the end of her driveway reinforced by sandbags to prevent the water from running down the driveway and into her basement.
Because many residents of the street had experienced persistent flooding in heavy rains, the city completed a $650,000 project last year completely overhauling the drainage system on the street.
Extra storm drains were added, and excess water was rerouted to a tributary in E.C. Million Park.
On the south side of the street, the sidewalk was paved with pervious concrete, designed to allow more water to flow through it instead of pooling at the curb.
But the new concrete isn’t working, Maupin said.
Rainfall since the project was completed has caused flooding on her property, reaching up to eight inches in her basement and 10 inches in her driveway, she said.
“There was debris floating into my basement,” Maupin said. “There was grass, tree limbs and cigarette butts.”
With the pervious concrete not working correctly, drainage on the south side of the street relies on small drains along the curb. Only the north side of the street has large drains.
The water often carries debris with it, which can clog up the grates and prevent drainage altogether on parts of the road, Maupin said.
She has called city officials whenever the drains get clogged, but they are not regularly cleaned, she added.
“The main drain is across the street,” Maupin said. “It doesn’t work.”
Maupin had privately paid to have her driveway redone before the project to handle storm water. She said Mike Roberts, then city planning director, told her what needed to be done to keep her basement dry when it rained.
“When I had my driveway and sidewalk replaced, I never had a problem,” Maupin said.
But the work done for the city’s project undid the changes Maupin paid for privately, and since then she has had heavy flooding. She and some of her neighbors had considered filing a civil suit against the city, Maupin said, but had not because of the expense associated with a lawsuit.
City Commissioner Laura King, who Maupin contacted, told the Register grading of the pervious concrete was causing the problem.
Because the concrete is experimental, King said the city hired a contractor to install the sidewalks. But a mistake was made when the concrete was graded, she said, which hinders how easily water flows through it. The sidewalk is supposed to be under warranty, however, and the city has reported the problem to contractor, she said.
“The city has sent out engineers and turned in a list of what needs to be restored back to Ladgo (the contactor),” King said.
Mayor Jim Barnes and King both told the Register on Friday they thought Ladgo had taken care of the problem.
“I was under the impression that things were pretty smooth there,” Barnes said.
But with continued flooding after long periods of rain, the Sunset Avenue did not completely fix storm-water problems in the neighborhood, according to Maupin and other residents.
“I would say (the project) probably hasn’t changed it,” said Cathleen Rahimzadeh, another Sunset Avenue resident. “Our basement got wet during the recent rains, but it didn’t flood.”
King said the city would contact the contractor again to ask why the problem hasn’t been fixed, and she would check on the progress of Sunset Avenue daily.
“Even if Ladgo doesn’t get started, we need to get something done,” King said.
Rahimzadeh said another issue with the project involves the rain gardens installed on the north side of the street. The gardens protrude out into the street and are supposed to be filled with native plants. In the event of a storm, the garden should absorb some of the water that would otherwise pool up near the drains.
However, the gardens on Sunset Avenue are barren, except for some weeds and stones.
Rahimzadeh said the city never told the residents of the street who would be responsible for planting and maintaining the gardens. The residents thought the city would be managing them, but nothing has been grown since the project was completed.
Barnes said he was unsure of who was supposed to be in charge of the gardens, but he would look into why nothing has been planted.
Seth Littrell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 624-6623.