North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

June 27, 2013

Morris residents furious that streets still not paved

By Melanie Patterson
North Jefferson News

MORRIS — Overbrook Highlands in Morris is a high-end subdivision, where houses for sale list in the $3-500,000 range.

However, residents are up in arms because a key part of the development’s infrastructure — the streets — remains unfinished.

Only the base coat of asphalt has been put down; it needs a final coat so the street can be turned over to the city of Morris for maintenance. Until then, Morris workers have no authority to do work on the streets.

The asphalt is worn through in many places, leaving numerous potholes and even grass growing through the road.

In addition, there is a drainage problem because the asphalt is lower than the curbing, which causes water to puddle in the streets because it can’t reach the gutters and drainage system, according to Dan Carre, who is on the homeowners association board.

“It does take away from the aesthetic of the neighborhood, with such nice houses and ugly roads,” said Carre, who has lived there a year with his wife Stacie.

One homeowner, Cindy Berry, actually filled some potholes herself with concrete because the roads were in such poor condition.

There are about 50 houses in the development.

Developer: ‘It will be done’

Overbrook resident Mike Jones addressed the Morris City Council on Monday, pleading with the mayor and council to help.

Jones said residents have been waiting for several years for the developer to pave the streets.

“Everything comes down to Clint Singletary,” Jones said. Singletary is the developer.

Morris Mayor Joe Pylant told a packed council chambers Monday that he met with Singletary recently, and the developer assured him that he has set aside the asphalt to pave most of the roads at Overbrook.

“I’ve talked to him and he said he’s going to do it,” Pylant said, adding that Singletary asked the mayor to give him a few months to do the job.

“This has been the same story for five years,” said Jones, while other Overbrook residents at the meeting agreed.

Denice Mullins, a 10-year Overbrook resident and treasurer for the homeowners association, said she would like to see Morris officials have the “same proactive nature of getting behind their residents like Kimberly does.”

In neighboring Kimberly, the city council has been discussing the Liberty Crossing subdivision for many months, which is another Singletary project that is unfinished.

On June 24, the Kimberly council set a date of Sept. 21 as the deadline to require Singletary to make good on his promise to finish paving the streets at Liberty Crossing.

Overbrook residents did say that two years ago, Singletary paved a few stripes of asphalt at the subdivision.

Singletary told the North Jefferson News on Thursday that he plans to work on paving the subdivision this summer.

“I don’t know if I’m financially able to finish it (this summer),” he said. “I’m working with the city of Morris. It will be done, but I can’t give a date of completion. I’m doing the best I can. I’m trying to survive and fulfill my obligations.”

Singletary added that “due to the economy and circumstances unforeseen, it has taken longer than everybody would like for it to take.”

The developer said he is trying to sell other pieces of property in order to raise money to finish the projects he has started.

He added that when Morris officials have called him with problems at Overbrook, “we’ve gotten up there in a reasonably timely manner” in order to do repairs.

Countywide problem

The north Jefferson subdivisions are by no means the only ones having trouble getting their roads paved.

In Jefferson County, more than 75 subdivisions have not received their topcoat of asphalt, according to Tracy Pate, chief civil engineer at the Jefferson County Roads and Transportation Department.

Officials say many of the developers’ bonds are underwater: The cost of the work is more than the bonds are worth.

One of the big problems in Morris is that there is not even a bond on the project, meaning the city of Morris has little leverage to compel the developer complete the work.

However, the Morris City Council on Monday heard the first reading of an ordinance that would require a paving bond for contractors. It will hear the second reading at the next council meeting on July 23 and vote then on whether to adopt the ordinance.

Even if the council adopts the ordinance, it will not affect the Overbrook subdivision.

A bond basically works like this: If a developer fails to finish a project, a city can revoke his bond, meaning the bonding company would be responsible for the amount of the bond if the developer skips out. A developer can also get a bond in the form of a certificate of deposit, made payable to both the developer and to the city, and requiring the signature of both to release the bond.

However, with bonds being underwater, they would still not provide enough money to finance the paving projects even if cities did revoke them.

Meanwhile in Morris, Overbrook residents are still imploring the city council to help them get their streets paved.

“I’m very proud of where I live,” said resident Kelly Williamson at the meeting. “It’s a beautiful place. But it’s embarrassing (because of the streets). We feel very much taken advantage of because we spent a lot of money on those homes.”