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Pamelia to hold housing developer’s feet to fire after botched sewer job

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After installing sewer lines containing dips that could have clogged with waste, workers will begin extensive repairs next week to the infrastructure at Deerfield subdivision off Route 37 in the town of Pamelia.

The Town Council on Monday gave developer Beacon Asset Managers, Jacksonville, Fla., the go-ahead to make those repairs at the 43-acre site, where it plans to build 29 single-family houses and 39 duplexes. The work will take about a month and come at a price tag of about $150,000, to be completed and paid for by general contractor Cunningham Excavation, Cazenovia, which installed the lines.

With the town’s assent came a pointed warning. Supervisor Lawrence C. Longway told Robert L. Sipple Jr., the developer’s managing partner, that the town will not take ownership of the infrastructure if the sewer lines are not built to its standards. A town official will inspect the lines after the repair. The developer will be required to run a video camera through the length of the lines, to measure water flow to ensure no dips remain.

Problems with sewer lines are just the latest in a series of delays at the site. Three military families moved in this spring, but only after waiting months for National Grid to finish its share of the work. Nine additional houses have been constructed that have pre-lease agreements, but infrastructure repairs will have to be finished before families can move in.

The developer was prodded by the town this spring to inspect the construction. That was after the town in April hired its own engineer, who found a series of dips in the lines during an inspection. Mr. Sipple told the board Monday that collectively, engineers found six uneven manholes and 18 dips in the sewer lines. About 500 feet of sewer line—roughly 10 percent of the total piping—will have to be replaced.

Town Supervisor Lawrence C. Longway told Mr. Sipple he will personally inspect the sewer lines after the repairs are completed. He will do so by watching a recording from the video camera that will be run through the lines to measure the flow. To do that effectively, Mr. Longway said, attached to the camera will be what’s called a dip ball about an inch in diameter. If that metallic ball is seen submerged under water during the recording, he said, it means there’s a dip in the line more than an inch. “I want that dip ball attached to the front of the camera so that you are going to average what’s more or less than half an inch in the lines,” he told Mr. Sipple.

After conferring with Mr. Sipple — who left the building after his presentation — Mr. Longway advised board members to consider requiring housing developers to hire engineers to hold them accountable in the future. If the problem with the sewer lines had not been caught by the town, he said, it could have cost millions in future repairs after the town accepted ownership of the infrastructure.

“No matter how lucrative these projects are, we have to change our strategy,” he advised the board. “LeRay has an engineer that baby-sits developers every step of the way, which I think is kind of stern. But we could have really gotten an education on this project if we didn’t catch the problems.”

Pamelia Town Attorney David A. Renzi agreed that the town could have been left in a vulnerable position if mistakes weren’t identified. The developer’s engineer responsible for inspecting work is Aubertine & Currier Architects, Watertown.

“The way this works, you can’t go after the engineer after you’ve taken over the roads based on the statue of limitations,” Mr. Renzi said.

Following the meeting, council members watched a video recording of sewer piping illustrating how the dip ball attached to the camera is used. It contains a hole in the middle that helps indicate when the flow of water in the pipe is a half-inch deep.

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