Business owner's parking lot damaged by construction side-effect; city says 'Not our problem'
Photo: Video by kgun9.com
CREATED Mar. 7, 2013 - UPDATED: Mar. 8, 2013
Reporter: Maggie Vespa
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - These days in Tucson, just mentioning the phrase brings about memories of closed streets and snarled traffic -- essentially a never-ending headache.
The phrase? City road construction.
But for one small business owner, it is an unforseen side effect of the road work, that's causing him headaches, especially when it comes time to foot the bill.
So, he turned to 9OYS for help, and we wanted to know, who is responsible when a problem like this falls through the cracks?
No one loves road work, but Jeff Herndon believed the final product would be worth the price.
"The construction here on 22nd is a great thing," he said.
Now, he is recalculating.
"Unfortunately, they blocked every exit to go north and south to get to the neighborhood behind," he described.
Herndon is talking about the area behind his business, Plum Windows and Doors, near 22nd and Kino.
Back in January, as crews worked to widen 22nd, Herndon says drivers got wise to alternate routes, including his corner parking lot.
"And then the cracks that we had in this driveway started to open up and get bigger, and bigger, and wider," he said, showing us his parking lot.
Herndon says for weeks, he estimates up to 100 cars, trucks, even semis, crossed his lot daily, damaging the pavement.
Now, repair estimates run from 500 to a couple thousand dollars.
Herndon figured, "It's a city project. The city should help."
"And they turn around and just gave me the complete run-around," he said.
It was a run-around that included...
- an endless chains of phone calls and emails...
-a city project manager showing up unannounced when Herndon wasn't there...
-instructions on filing an insurance claim with the city, advice which was later taken back, as officials told Herndon his case didn't qualify...
-and finally, a recommendation to just lawyer up and sue Ashton Construction.
All of this was capped off by some odd, unprompted requests left on Herndon's voicemail.
"I really hope you don't call the media," said one message.
"I'm encouraging you to hold off on talking to the media," said another.
"I really encourage you not to call the media," repeated the first.
And here is the grand finale.
"It's actually just going to be worse for your business and give you some, you know, negative press," explained the same woman, in that first message.
Overwhelmed by this bureaucratic blitz, Herndon called the media.
"At some point you have to be responsible for all this stuff," he said.
Step one, 9OYS returned those phone calls, left by Main Street Program coordinator Britton Norquist and Priscilla Fernandez, an outside consultant hired by the city.
Both declined to comment.
In the end, officials pointed us to engineering project manager Fred Felix.
"We've told him what he needs to do," he said.
9OYS reporter Maggie Vespa sat down with Felix, and laid out Herndon's story.
Vespa said, "The city says 'We cannot repave private property with public dollars.' Mr. Herndon says 'My private property was damaged as a result of a public project.' Now he feels as though he's been left out to dry. What is the answer to his problem?"
Felix responded, "Well, we have mentioned to him that there is a contractor that is on site."
Felix argues, the responsibility falls on the construction company hired by the city, Ashton Construction but adds Herndon can file a claim with the city of Tucson.
"There is a process that he needs to follow," he said.
In the end, Herdon says he will try every option, but he wants other small business owners to learn from his experience.
"No one advised me that 'Hey, this could happen. People could start driving up onto your property and then cut through, and you could sustain damages,'" he said. "No one brought that to our attention."
9OYS also reached out to Ashton Construction. They declined to go on camera but told us via phone they do not see merit in Herndon's argument.
They add they have no plans to help him fix his parking lot.