Homeowners along Ringling Boulevard east of Main Street have complained for a year about a county-made eyesore.
In May 2013, the county dug nine ditches along Ringling Boulevard to filter and clean stormwater runoff before the water drains to the Hudson Bayou. The nine “bioswales” were part of a water-quality improvement project for the bayou – but all the stormwater seems to do is breed mosquitoes.
After digging, the ditches began to cause problems for the homeowners next to the construction.
“They’re mosquito traps,” said homeowner Don Tipton.
Tipton said the bioswales did not drain correctly and frequently left standing water after heavy rains. The ditches provided a breeding ground for mosquitoes and snakes, he said. They also catch garbage from the street and the county does not mow them regularly.
The bioswales also aren’t attractive to the eye: they are filled with tufts of tall grass, piles of dirt and weeds.
Tipton said he and other property owners have contacted the county numerous times with their complaints, with no successful results.
Jamie Purmort, owner of Purmort & Martin Insurance Agency, said he and his father, who owned the agency before him, had landscaped the area in front of their building for 30 years, not knowing it was county land.
They’d installed an irrigation system and planted St. Augustine grass, Purmort said. The county sent everyone notices about the Hudson Bayou improvements, but did not include site plans or renderings to indicate what kind of construction would be occurring.
The bioswales exposed the pipes to his irrigation system and serve as a garbage deposit, Purmort said. He received numerous complaints that he was not keeping up his property, but it’s the county’s responsibility.
Dan Carlson lives in the area and runs near the bioswales every day. He said he has witnessed the standing water in the ditches after a rain. He said he supports clean water in the Hudson Bayou, but the bioswales don’t seem to be working, for the water doesn’t drain.
“If it was just ugly and worked, most of us would say, OK,” Carlson said. “But it’s ugly and not working.”
Last week the county filled in two of the bioswales.
Paul Semenec, the project manager, said there were issues with this portion of the project that the county is working to fix.
The two bioswales filled by the county were not functioning, he said. The other seven will remain, but to work fully, they need additional work, such as raising the elevation of the bioswale floor with pea gravel.
Curb cuts will be added to the remaining bioswales to help stormwater flow into the ditches, Semenec said, but Tipton said the stormwater flows too fast in that space to be effective.
“It’s not a finished project,” Semenec said.
The entire improvement project cost the county $1.8 million; it cost $25,440.14 to fill in the two ditches. However, it wasn’t an addition to the project cost because another part of the project was cancelled before construction began.
The project, which also includes replacing asphalt with pervious material, underground “baffle boxes” that catch sediment and floating objects and stormwater pond remediation, is slated for completion this summer. The project consists of four areas: two on Ringling Boulevard, one on Novus Street and one on Dolphin Street.
Semenec said the county hired a geotechnical firm to test the drainage of the two bioswales that constantly retained water. The rest went untested.
“We intend for the bioswales to drain within 72 hours,” Semenec said, which the remaining seven are doing. “When it rains it’s easy to see which are draining properly.”
Regardless of the project status, eight property owners gathered together Tuesday night to discuss their options to remedy the situation.
To discuss the problem, the county has scheduled a neighborhood meeting for Aug. 12, at the County Administration Building, 1660 Ringling Blvd. The time has not been determined, and the neighborhood will receive a notice in the mail.