Déjà vu is how one resident described Monday night’s discussion regarding deteriorating roads in the Gem Lakes Extension Subdivision.
Huron and Moultrie drives, located in one of the newest portions of Gem Lakes, have both experienced degeneration for several years now, and residents are getting antsy for a solution.
A petition, signed by more than 30 residents living along those two streets, was presented to Aiken City Council Monday evening asking for an independent forensic engineering study to pinpoint the issue causing their roads to crack and crumble.
Those residents are also asking for their road to be as sturdy as the rest of the roads in Gem Lakes and to not resemble “a quilt” like it currently does from patchwork that’s been conducted to abate the cracking. Residents said the patches have not worked, and some of those fresh squares of pavement are already beginning to fracture.
“We expected to be protected by the regulations of this city, and we expected those roads would be as satisfactory in a year or two years later as the day we moved in,” said Moultrie Drive resident Jim Fairchild. “I don’t think that’s too high of an expectation for a road.”
Developer Steve Kisner said they’re working with CSRA Engineering to offer an assessment of the roads and conduct a soil test. Kisner said, once the assessment is complete this spring, work to hopefully resolve the issue will take place over the summer and be done by August.
CSRA Engineering has had prior involvement in this project, so Aiken City Engineering and Utilities Director Larry Morris proposed to have the City’s own highway engineers also assess the situation to accomplish the independent study that the residents are requesting.
These roads are currently not owned by the city. Once the repairs are complete including a punch list the city developed, a one-year developer warranty period will begin and once that year passes, the developers can deed the roads to the City of Aiken.
In conclusion of Monday night’s discussion, Councilman Reggie Ebner proposed that the city receive a formal update on the progress at the April 22 regularly scheduled meeting.
The roads were originally put in place about four years ago, and residents said that the deterioration has been an issue since the beginning. In August, residents met with City staff and developers Kisner and Todd Gaul, who are working together on this phase of Gem Lakes, in hopes to find the root cause.
Since that meeting in August, the city has conducted ground penetrating radar testing that determined water is under the roads but determined that it was not caused by a broken line or main.
“Near surface groundwater” from rain or irrigation systems could be causing that problem, according to a city email.
The roads are clay and sand-based, which was revised and approved from the original plans that called for stone bedding.
City Manager Richard Pearce said that from the city’s research, roads installed in that neighborhood in 1983 and 1992 are also sand and clay-based.
Richard Decker, who also resides on Moultrie Drive, inquired why the city didn’t call in performance or maintenance bonds before they expired when the problems began.
Morris said that, when working with a developer like Gaul or Kisner who were willing to address the issue, the city typically does not take that step. The bond was allowed to expire since the developers were actively working to resolve the issue.
A letter of credit was issued by the City of Aiken in 2010 for $106,000 to Gaul and Kisner – Kisner said that they have paid that about that amount in repairs.
Jim Williams, who resides on Moultrie Drive, said that he and his neighbors are not trying to point fingers or blame anyone but the situation itself. He said all they are asking is for some help, guidance and for a solution to the problem of the cracking roads so that they can appreciate the investments they have made in their new homes.
“We ask for your help, we ask for your guidance. For some of us, this all we’re going to have. For others, it’s a stepping stone,” Williams said. “The bottom line is nothing so far has lived up to what we’re entitled to.”