Residents of a Berryville neighborhood say that they have had it with more than a year of dirt and dust generated from construction activity from the site of the new Clarke County High School and are demanding that school officials authorize funds to clean the outside of homes affected by the grime. But at last night’s Clarke County School Board meeting School Board members offered little willingness for addressing the problem.
In a May 21st letter sent to Joint Administrative Services director Tom Judge and also to the Clarke County School Board, ten families with homes on nearby Pender Court in Battlefield Estates demanded that the school division pay to have their homes professionally power-washed in order to remove dirt and stains that they say has been caused by construction dirt.
“Since the first day that construction equipment rolled on the property of the new high school, the residents of Pender Court have endured the pounding, puttering, scraping of machinery and waves of dirt flying in the air. For the past 18 months, each one of us has been unable to enjoy our screened porches and exterior patios, due to the caked dirt. Although our homes are less than 6 years old, they have a red glazed appearance of being much older and unhealthy” the letter states.
The letter also describes the disbelief that the residents felt after the construction work finally finished but then recommenced in early June:
“We were thankful when we saw that the pounding ceased and grass seed was being planted in February, but still unhappy about the appearance of the exterior of our homes. Several of us cleaned the red cake off our screened porches floors and furniture, some even bought new furniture, thinking construction was over and we could finally enjoy the spring months. Then earlier this month, the dirt started flying again and the pounding returned! Why? We have not a clue, but needless to say very disturbed THAT WE HAVE TO CLEAN AGAIN OR THAT OUR NEW OUTSIDE FURNITURE IS SOILED!”
Last night School Board member Jim Brinkmeier (Berryville) said that he had visited two of the affected homes and felt that the complaints about deeply soiled siding and porch furniture had merit and asked his fellow members to at least investigate to what he termed as a “reasonable request” by the residents.
Brinkmeier also asked that the Board look into the matter prior to providing Shockey Construction, the general contractor for the school site, with a final acceptance letter for the overall construction project.
“My concern is that we are getting ready to sign a letter saying that Shockey has ‘no responsibility’ but we don’t have all of the facts,” Brinkmeier said. “Let’s at least get Shockey to produce documentation of what they did do. As long as they followed the contract Shockey may not have done anything wrong. But I think that we need to ask Shockey to revisit this.”
But others on the Board appeared firmly against getting involved in what one member described as a “contract issue between Shockey Construction and the residents.”
“Building on this site meant that there would be management problems between the school division and the neighborhood,” said School Board member Chip Schutte (White Post). “Building on this site meant that the neighbors were going to be affected. There’s nothing in the contract that addresses this other than an inspection and there’s nothing in the budget that allows for this. But if you clean one home, then you have to clean them all.”
“My concern is that we know what the limitation of our responsibility is” said School Board Chairman Janet Alger (Russell). “I looked at that area on Google maps. A lot of dirt was moved in that area in 2007. It was surprising how much dirt was moved near those homes at that time. I also have a concern that VDOT (Virginia Department of Transportation) is just getting started on the round-about work and there’s going to be a whole lot more dirt soon.”
“You can’t build a 160,000 sq. ft. building 300 feet from homes and not expect them to get dirty,” Schutte said.
Whether or not the Pender Court residents expected their homes to get dirty may be an open issue, however, there is no doubt that the residents expect their homes to be returned to the cleaner pre-construction state.
“We, the residents of Pender Court and Clarke County tax payers listed and signed below, are insistent that Clarke County Public Schools make paid arrangements to have those homes listed below professionally power-washed as soon as possible. We desire to have our homes to have the same appearance as before the construction began.”
Brinkmeier said that he guessed the cost of power-washing each home might be $250. No cost estimate was mentioned regarding cleaning of soiled furniture.
“Shockey says that they have no further responsibility in the issue,” Brinkmeier said. “I think that we need to encourage Shockey to take another look at it and provide whatever documentation that they have that the homeowners were treated fairly.”
Despite Brinkmeier’s plea on behalf of the Pender Court residents, his motion to investigate the matter further died after after the lack of a second by another Board member. School Board member Barbara Lee (Millwood) asked that the matter be tabled without action until the Board next regular session in July.
School Board member Dr. Elizabeth Leffel (Buckmarsh) was absent last night.
View the letter from Pender Court residents to the Clarke County School Board here: Pender Court Letter 053112