Summertime means summer paving – and repaving, as some previous years’ major work is already in need of repair.

The City Council approved spending nearly $4 million this year to pave 11.7 miles of roads starting this month. But previous paving is causing serious concern for some residents who regularly travel on the main thoroughfares of Chamblee-Dunwoody and Mount Vernon roads.

Michael Smith, wearing the longsleeve shirt, checks out neighborhood paving underway in the Dunwoody Highlands neighborhood. (Dyana Bagby)

Alessandro Salvo, owner of GS Construction, and the city are currently battling it out over who should pay to repair a stretch of Mount Vernon Road that was paved in 2015. The road is cracked and sinking.

Salvo said his company was contracted by the city to do the paving after it replaced a water main along the road for DeKalb County. He said the city and county told him to fill the trench dug for the water main with loose rock rather than solid dirt.

“We protested … I’ve never seen it done like that before,” Salvo said. “It was like being in a movie.”

That loose rock is like a liquid underneath the road and will constantly be moving, affecting the road, Salvo explained. He said he didn’t think the road was unsafe, but it does need to be repaired. And to repair it, the road needs to be completely dug up and the backfill replaced, he said.

Dunwoody Public Works Director Michael Smith said the city had an intergovernmental agreement with DeKalb County for the project and the county was responsible for determining to backfill the trench because it was the county’s project to replace the water main.

Salvo said his contract is with the city. “It’s the city’s road. Shouldn’t the city dictate how it is used?”

“The argument will end up being between the county and the city,” Salvo said. “But I’m not going to cave. They caused the problem.”
DeKalb County did not respond to a request for comment.

The city is currently withholding a $225,000 payment to Kemi Construction until it repairs cracks on Chamblee-Dunwoody Road. DeKalb County also installed a new water line on that stretch of road, and it is having the same kinds of problems that are happening on Mount Vernon, Smith said.

The real issue with both roads is with the backfill used the fill the trenches where the water mains were installed – not the actual paving itself, Smith said.

Kemi Construction agreed to repair the road at its own cost because the defects occurred within the two-year warranty period. However, the company is not moving fast enough for City Council members and staff – and motorists. The company must dig out the defective backfill, put new material in the trench, and then repave the road. There is no clear date when the company will finish, Smith said.

“We’re applying as much pressure as we can,” he said. “We’ve been disappointed so far.”

Kemi Construction, which declined comment, was selected for the project because it submitted the lowest bid. State law mandates city governments award public works contracts to the lowest bidders, Smith said.

When it comes to paving major corridors, Smith said crews are typically directed to work during non-peak hours from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and at night, when traffic is lighter. A lane will also have to be closed. A major road can’t be simply shut down to try to finish the paving as soon as possible because there are no good detours, other than through residential neighborhoods.

Another factor that slows paving is the number of utilities in the right of way, either underground or on poles, Smith said. With the onset of fiber optics, there are sometimes as many as 10 different companies that need to be contacted and then those companies need to relocate their utility to make way for road work, he said. And the process can be lengthy.

“And it’s one of those things coming out of their pockets. It’s not enhancing their service, so sometimes it’s not the highest priority for them to move,” Smith said. Relocating utilities at the Tilly Mill Road and North Peachtree Road intersection took about eight months, for example, Smith said.

“We do west we can to minimize impact and we really try to make it as painless as possible,” Smith said. “But sometimes it’s unavoidable. We ask people for their patience.”