By John Schaffner

Driving through most of the Peachtree Heights East neighborhood and some of Garden Hills in Buckhead recently has been like riding over a washboard, and residents are wondering when their streets will be smooth again.

The root of most of the problem, especially in Peachtree Heights East, has been city sewer rehabilitation work. It has left the streets in that neighborhood in various states of repair, or disrepair, for more than two years, said Virginia Gunn, a member of the Peachtree Heights East Neighborhood Association (PHENA) board.

Most recently, most of the streets were milled in preparation for paving, but the paving was stopped.

There were reports that some streets had been paved, but the paving was stopped after problems were discovered with sewer lines or sewer rehab work that had been done. There also was a report of a pipe being installed that was not the proper size and had to be replaced.

Those reports prompted the Buckhead Reporter to talk with neighborhood representatives, Dist. 7 City Councilman Howard Shook, who represents the neighborhoods, and representatives of the city’s Watershed Management and Public Works departments.

Shook correctly suggested there might be “a couple of different things involved” regarding the two neighborhoods. He suggested the Peachtree Heights East situation might be associated with sewer system evaluation and repair work. But he indicated the halting of paving in Garden Hills, especially on Rumson Road, was at the request of the neighborhood group that is working on a revitalization of the center of the neighborhood, where Rumson intersects with Pinetree Drive.

Although the sewer work in Peachtree Heights East has been “very disruptive, the city has given us lots of advance notice of actions,” Gunn said April 10. “Although, when they say work will last one week, we have learned to anticipate several.”

She said the neighborhood was told at the beginning and in several meetings and phone calls during the work that paving would occur after the sewer work was done.

“In early March, we were notified that paving would begin on Lakeview, Parkside and Potomac,” Gunn said. “Lakeview and Parkside were milled in anticipation of the paving, but we were advised by a call from Deanne Titus on March 11 that paving had been halted because a review of the sewer tapes revealed problems with the sewer line in at least two places. Rather than pave and then again break up the streets, paving was halted.”

Titus is the north area public information officer for the city’s Department of Watershed Management.

Gunn said asphalt was placed around protruding sewer covers to protect cars. “In the earlier work on Acorn, we discovered that the manual collars around the sewer covers were prone to breakage with heavy traffic, so the asphalt covers were used.”

Gunn said that since March 11, “repair work has taken place and sewer rehab work begun on Demorest. All work has been completed as of this week (ending April 10). Parkside and Peachtree Way have been paved this week, and striping will take place within two weeks.”

She added that the work on Demorest wrapped up April 10, with restoration of the street scheduled for the next week.

“The balance of the streets in Peachtree Heights East should be paved by mid-May,” Gunn said.

George Barnes, an assistant watershed management director, told Shook no further sewer work remains “to be done on streets that have already been paved” in Peachtree Heights East.

Gunn said the city has communicated with the PHENA board regularly about the status of work. “We were told repeatedly that paving and street restoration would not take place until all work was completed and testing conducted. Not surprisingly, once contractors entered various sewer lines, they found issues that were not apparent in drawings, which caused delays.”

A few weeks ago, crews went to the Garden Hills neighborhood and milled Rumson Road leading off Peachtree Road. That work also was stopped, and paving has not taken place, leaving Rumson a rough ride.

Janet Tomko, who is heading up the efforts of the Garden Hills Neighborhood Foundation to redo the center of Garden Hills, said that “the city is coming back to pave everything except the three-way intersection in front of the neighborhood center,” where the pool, playground and soccer field are located. The plans for redoing that area of the neighborhood call for a roundabout to be installed at that intersection, which includes Rumson Road, Pinetree Drive and Bolling Road. Tomko said that if the city paved Rumson and those roads now, “we would have to redo the engineering of that intersection for what we have planned.”