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Phoenix residents unhappy with chip seal project

PHOENIX — Several homeowners in the Phoenix Hills subdivision east of Interstate 5 are unhappy with the outcome of a chip seal road repair project, but a consultant hired by the city said the work was excellent.

Meadow View Drive resident Jeff Sterling says chips used in the process were too large, oil residue continues to come up and gets tracked onto carpets, the surface is rough and the city didn’t give residents notice of the work in the time frame required by city code.

“It’s created more of a hindrance than a dollar savings,” said Sterling. “As a taxpayer, I’m appalled at the lack of diligence by management of the city.”

Skip Brown of Asphalt Consulting Service in Sacramento, Calif., wrote the work “can only be considered par excellence.” Use of a higher viscosity binder was needed to hold rock on slopes up to 12 percent, and the application was performed with high skill, Brown said.

Under a contract with the city, Sierra Santa Fe Corp. of Ridgefield, Wash., chip-sealed the roads June 24-26. The streets, which City Manager Steve Dahl estimated to be 15 to 20 years old, had begun to fail, necessitating the work.

“Within a couple days, we got complaints. It was 100 degrees. It didn’t set immediately,” said Dahl. Residents were given 15 days’ notice of the upcoming work rather than the city-required 90 days, he said.

Streets south of Fern Valley Road and east of South Phoenix Road, including Meadow View Drive, Country Hill Drive, Breckenridge Drive, Vail Court, Mountain View Court, Abbey Street and Parkway Circle, were sealed at a cost of $187,287.

“We’ll talk with (Sierra Santa Fe) about what they can do,” said Dahl. A decision on calling the company back for more work is under consideration but will await input from Public Works Superintendent Kevin Caldwell, who has been in training, said Dahl.

Other residents have told the City Council they were unhappy with the rough surface of the job, residue left on tires, oil and loose chips. One resident said children can no longer play in the street.

Brown said the chip size chosen for the project was appropriate for roads with a minimum of several thousand vehicles per day where traffic can rapidly set and tighten the chips into final position. Tightening is unlikely to occur in the subdivision roads until next summer because of a lack of traffic, he wrote.

Brown recommended the city use smaller-sized chips, which can produce a smoother surface with less material required, on future projects. Brown also recommended additional compaction by pneumatic-tire rollers and elimination of a steel-wheeled roller in the process.

Sierra Santa Fe swept loose rock in accordance with the contract. But sweeping performed by the city after getting complaints may have caused additional materials to loosen, Brown wrote.

“We want to do more chip sealing in the future, but we don’t have any plan for chip sealing in the next couple years,” said Dahl. “That may change in the next budget cycle.”

Chip sealing is estimated to cost about 10 percent of the expense for a hot asphalt overlay, according to Brown.

Brown’s report also calls for public education on chip seal projects. He said that in the first few weeks they “will be a bit ugly” but that the condition with loose chips on the surface is temporary.

Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.