Business owners start petition against town

Carbonear road issues, plumbing problems cause for complaints

Melissa Jenkins melissa.jenkins@tc.tc
Published on January 7, 2015

Michael Williams and Wade Sharpe are sick of hearing, "blub, blub, blub" coming from the bathroom of their Carbonear business.

The owners of Busy Hands Arts and Crafts on Water Street acquired the building in August 2014. During renovations, they had the plumbing hooked up. It had been left unhooked for years while the property wasn't in use as a business.

Williams explains that to understand how the noise begins, it's necessary to watch the toilet.

He turns on the faucet, and the noise begins. Sounds emanate from the bowl and water begins to drain slowly. It doesn't stop for over an hour.

"If someone has to use the washroom, we have to send them across the street to the civic centre," Williams said, noting the embarrassment they feel sending customers out the door.

It was then the couple realized there were issues with the plumbing. Sharpe believes the sewer pipe, which runs directly behind the property into the ocean, was crushed during previous work by town council workers driving heavy equipment over it for years.

Sharpe claims it was used for dumping debris and snow for many years.

Carbonear director of public works Brian O'Grady told The Compass that in his seven years on the job, town vehicles have not been used on the property.

There is no indication whether anything was dumped prior.

There are, however, several oxidized pipes and eroded blocks of concrete behind the building and along the beach. It is unknown where these came from.

Williams and Sharpe agree their sewer pipe is not part of the town's sewer system. The town's access is across the street, in front of the train station museum.

"I can't believe the town didn't require (the plumbing) to be hooked up to the town's sewer system years ago," Sharpe said.

The town said all work to fix plumbing issues on a person's or business' property must be looked after by the property's owner, which would include running their own plumbing to the curb from the back of the building.

Don't get wet

The sewer line is one of three problems the couple believes are serious issues that need to be addressed. Another is water pooling in front of the property.

The business' main entrance is at the south of the building. There are ruts and potholes in the pavement in front of their driveway, which leads to a small, gravel parking lot.

Water gathers in these spaces, and traffic drives through them, creating a wave of water.

When it is raining hard and vehicles are travelling faster than the speed limit, the water reaches past the entrance and can potentially soak customers.

"The water collects at our door, from the run off from the higher area on Water Street, and on a rainy day a patron would have to judge how fast they have to run to avoid being soaked by passing vehicles," Williams explained.

Also, when vehicles drive through the puddles, the gravel on the parking lot gets pushed back, leaving holes at the entrance. It is a hinderance to those trying to park on the property.

Work was completed on Water Street on the north side of their shop several weeks ago to help with the pooling issue. Town administrator Cynthia Davis said the work completed eliminated that issue.

"Outside staff corrected the water pooling issue a few weeks ago," she told The Compass. "The sea had caused a blockage in the culvert where the storm water goes out to the harbour. There may be some spray on the building when the road is wet since the building is so close to the street, but there is nothing that can be done for that."

O'Grady confirmed the work was completed, and did what it was supposed to do.

"The town dug up a large storm culvert that is to the north of the building running from the Water Street curb to the ocean. This was cleaned and re-installed. Since that time the water has been running well and only a few puddles of water are in front of the building. This is no different than in many locations where the pavement is not perfectly even."

But Sharpe said the problem was not eliminated because the south side of the building has a lower elevation.

"The water still pools there because it can't run uphill," he said.

"This past fall, some of the pavement was replaced but the area where the most water collects was not included and is mere feet from our doorway," said Williams.

Sidewalk needs repair

The third issue is the sidewalk in front of the property. Williams and Sharpe said they spoke with town management, and a plan is in place to replace it with a product other than concrete, but that won't happen until at least the spring.

Davis confirmed that something with more of a heritage feel will replace the standard sidewalk later this year.

"I told him that we may remove the old broken sidewalk and just place gravel there until next year, but we would not be replacing it at this time. If weather permits we may still get it removed before winter sets in," O'Grady said.

Sharpe and Williams are more concerned about the safety of the sidewalk than the esthetic curb appeal.

"It's just a matter of time before someone gets hurt on that sidewalk," Williams said. "Then, it's too late. And it'll be the town's responsibility."

Petition for solution

Williams and Sharpe created an online petition on change.org called "Clean up your act Town of Carbonear" calling on the town to fix the issues. A hard copy can be found in the store.

The business owners felt they had no other choice because they were concerned for the safety of their patrons. So far, the petition has garnered a few hundred signatures.

O'Grady said the water pooling issue had already been in progress before the petition began.

Sharpe is adamant that a simple solution will fix all the issues in one shot. He suggests have the building hooked to the main water line. In doing so, the sidewalk would have to be torn up. The old sewer pipe would no longer be an issue, since it wouldn't be used anymore. And the pavement would have to get fixed after getting dug up.

Melissa.jenkins@tc.tc