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Who Monitors Construction Sites?

A recent resident complaint has the Department of Public Works revisiting site enforcement.

With multiple construction sites around town — many breaking ground, others cutting ribbons — some of the older and slower-moving projects can get lost in the shuffle of day-to-day inspections.

That was the case for a storm water detention pond at Dominion Ridge — a not-so-new housing development off of Monroe Street between Dominion Ridge and Grant streets.

"It is an older project that is essentially done," said Robert Boxer, director of public works, about a recent complaint that the site was unfinished and unsafe. "They recently started back up and it just didn't get inspected."

Mayor Michael O'Reilly said this isn't the first time the town has cracked down on this specific site's contractor.

"What's happened is anytime we make noise [to the contractor] a little bit gets done and then it's off our radar screens again," said O'Reilly. "It's probably been 10 years since those homes have been complete."

The development, on the outside of town off the Herndon Parkway, is complete except for a large storm water detention pond that is Monroe Associates' — the contractor — responsibility to finish.

O'Reilly explained when Monroe Associates was awarded the subdivision permit in 1995, the contractor bonded with the town — a routine requirement by the town of contractors to set aside additional money to ensure the completion of a project.

Now, almost 10 years later, because work is still incomplete, O'Reilly expects the town to take final actions.

"Those two storm water detention ponds on Monroe Street have been a problem for a number of years," he said. "Construction has been painfully slow, intermittent at best."

If the town does hire a contractor to finish the job, O'Reilly said the bonds will be used to pay for the work.

MEMBERS OF THE Town Council were made aware of the unfinished storm-water pond by an upset resident of the development at their Jan. 18 work session.

Jerome McDermott informed the council that a "chain-link fence had been pulled back" that surrounded the pond and that Jan. 17 was the first time the site saw "any activity since before Christmas."

McDermott added it was only a matter of time before the roughly 20 children who live on the street wandered over to the open area to climb on the bulldozer and other construction equipment.

"There really is no excuse for this," McDermott said.

Boxer said the developer pulled back the chain-link fence to bring in equipment and never secured the site, adding once the weather became cold, work stopped.

"There's a lot going on [in town] and this one slipped through the cracks," said Boxer. "There is no excuse and this will not happen again."

Council member Steven Mitchell said although he could not comment on the Dominion Ridge site because of previous involvement, he did say public safety around construction sites is a big concern.

"It is a big issue in front of the town and the town staff is definitely looking into dealing with it," he said.

Since the complaint, Boxer said he contacted the contractor who immediately put up a temporary orange plastic fence.

Because of active projects like the Jonquil Lane development, the Fortnightly Square townhouses and other high-traffic construction sites, Boxer said the town's one inspector did not go by the semi-inactive Dominion Ridge site.

"The inspector goes by to check on silt, erosion control and signage for public safety," he said about what they look for. "He should be hitting projects daily."

Town Attorney Richard Kaufman said if a child, or anyone, were to be injured on a construction site under the town's control the town could be held liable, although there are governmental immunities that could protect the town.

"Most other construction sites, those are still private property and the town's not involved," he said. "We are not responsible as a government for what happens on private property."

Although the town is technically not responsible, O'Reilly and Boxer worked quickly to remedy the problem after McDermott's complaint.

Boxer immediately called Monroe Associates to order the site be temporarily fenced and O'Reilly wrote a letter to McDermott updating him on the site's status, informing him a solution was in the near future.

"The applicant is responsible to build and complete in accordance to the plans," he said. "It's highly likely that the work will be bonded out."