Ledger Inquirer: Mayor hopes for resolution in neighborhood landslide situation

March 24, 2013 

Today, we're going back down the slippery slope.

You will recall the situation we visited a few weeks back out on Valley Crest Drive, where a huge wall of dirt is sloughing off a slope behind Sgt. Cornelia Johnson's and her neighbors' homes, rendering their backyards practically useless and threatening the structures themselves.

The slow motion landslide has reached at least two of the houses and the neighbors have had to dig trenches to prevent it from doing major damage. That's where we left the neighborhood a couple of weeks ago.

This week, a small delegation of city leaders drove out to Valley Crest to check out the situation first-hand and talk to the neighbors.

Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, Columbus Councilor Bruce Huff (who represents the area), Deputy City Manager David Arrington and Director of Engineering Donna Newman surveyed the scene. The city had already sent out engineers to assess any danger the people might be in.

Tomlinson told the neighbors she was sorry for their plight and that she'd do what she could do. But there are limits as to how the city can or should intervene in disputes between private individuals and companies.

So don't sit back and wait for the city to resolve this, she said. Lawyer up, and do it quickly.

"In the meantime, I'm happy to take a shot at seeing if I can't get the attention of people, for their own sake, so they can avoid legal costs and potential claims," Tomlinson said. "I'm very, very sorry about your situation."

Another issue looming over the neighborhood is a huge Georgia Power high-voltage line that runs along an easement at the top of the hill. The eroding edge of the hilltop is beginning to encroach on a 60-foot pole, and the neighbors fear it could topple down on them eventually. With multiple lines carrying 115,000 volts each, you don't want that.

Robert Watkins, my friend at Georgia Power, said the company is monitoring the pole regularly to make sure it remains stable, which it is now.

"But if it gets much closer, we're going to have to move that pole," Watkins said. "If that erosion even thinks of affecting that pole, we're going to move it."

The neighbors also expressed concern that if the power company starts excavating around the base of the pole, the erosion is only going to get worse.

No need to worry about that. Watkins said they would send a large crane out to pull the pole straight up out of the ground, then fill in the hole.

"There won't be any major disturbance of the soil," he said.

Stay tuned. I can hear a herd of lawyers polishing their wing-tips.


Speaking of poles, I got a funny email from the subject of a recent Inquirer. She and her neighbors had a problem with old utility poles that had been replaced, but not removed, leaving a couple of shiny new poles next to ratty old poles. The situation had gone unresolved for two years.

We made a few calls and AT&T (which also owns poles) came out and rectified the situation ASAP. My Concerned Reader wrote me this week to say thanks, but also to give an update.

"Just thought you would find it humorous that after waiting almost two years for what took you only three days to handle, the new pole lasted just a few short weeks," she wrote.

It turns out a pine in her yard fell and took out the new pole, which has since been replaced.

"Good thing I'm not a pole dancer," she wrote. "I have such bad luck with poles."

Seen something that needs attention? Contact me at mowen@ledger-enquirer.com or 706-571-8570.

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