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Before you sink big money into landscaping ...

Know your dirt

For John and Cheri Doelger, pooling water at the lower edge of their hillside property was a bad sign.

You could see erosion taking place, said John Doelger, who said he and his wife built the house a year and a half ago.

They contacted Medford Public Works a few weeks ago.

Crews arrived to discover 26 feet of crushed plastic storm drain pipe and a maintenance road, all buried beneath yards and yards of fill dirt. A storm drain manhole was beneath 6 feet of soil.

We worked on it for about three days, said Tad Blanton, a public works supervisor. It cost the department about &

36;8,000. They turned the matter over to the city's insurance company, he said.

We had an excavator up there, said Blanton. The road had been covered up, so we had to build a road.

The Doelgers, both Medford real estate agents, said they were surprised to learn what had been buried beneath the surface on their lot and the adjacent lot.

I had no clue, said John Doelger.

The couple said they were glad their landscaping was minimal in the area impacted, so there was no expense to them.

All I did was seed it with clover, said Cheri Doelger, also the contractor who built the couple's house.

Public Works Director Cory Crebbin said that a few times a year, public works has to go in over a resident's landscaping to unearth and repair utilities.

People do a bunch of landscaping on top of these things, said Crebbin. The city does not replace the landscaping after the job is complete.

Crebbin said his department discourages developments that have sewer and storm drain lines in easements on private property.

Medford has thousands of such properties.

They're all over the place, said Crebbin. The sewer line goes between houses instead of in a public right of way.

Blanton said he encourages property owners to check their deeds.

Keep in mind that if there's something there like a manhole or a clean-out, know that we will have to get in there in the future, he said.

I know a number of situations where (property owners) have had to move a sewer line to put a swimming pool in, he said.

The Doelgers said the city was quick to respond and took care of the problem.

It works just fine now, Cheri Doelger said.

Blanton said it could have been worse.

I'm really thankful that it turned out that we found the problem before the rain hit, he said.

John and Cheri Doelger?s house on Satellite Drive sits above an area on the near side of their property where 6 feet of fill dirt covered a manhole and crushed 26 feet of storm drain pipe a few weeks ago. Mail Tribune / Jim Craven - Mail Tribune Jim Craven