He said…they said

Published 7:29 pm Saturday, August 16, 2014

John Yoder sits in his ATV inspecting the area of his property where he alleges Sunland Builders should have graded, seeded, and placed straw to restore the lawn at the site following the installation of the village’s Wastewater Collection System. Staff Photo by Gene Motley

John Yoder sits in his ATV inspecting the area of his property where he alleges Sunland Builders should have graded, seeded, and placed straw to restore the lawn at the site following the installation of the village’s Wastewater Collection System. Staff Photo by Gene Motley

TUNIS – Another complaint has arisen over the delayed Tunis Wastewater Collection System, which is several months behind schedule for operation in this small Hertford County hamlet.

Once again, it’s a homeowner with a complaint against the contractor and allegations of a broken promise.

John and Barbara Yoder allege that Sunland Builders, the project’s general contractor, left their yard on Church Drive and other parts of their property in disarray following the installation of a wastewater tank beside their homestead.

In addition to his house, the Yoder’s also owns a large vacant lot adjacent to the home site.

“It’s been an ongoing thing since January,” Yoder said during an interview conducted at his home. “They said they would leave our property just as nice as it was when they came in here, or even better.”

The crux of the Yoder’s complaint appears to be over the loose gravel used as bedding for the sewer tank, which remains in spots around their yard.  Yoder claims the project superintendent not only promised to remove the gravel, but that the company would also provide topsoil that could be used with grass seed and covered with straw to aid in lawn grass restoration.

“And I’ve got that in writing,” Yoder claims.

A retired veteran, Yoder and his wife moved to the area from Tennessee a little over two years ago.

The couple is one of 38 homeowners who agreed via a voter referendum to the construction of sewer lines, manholes and pumps to be completely installed on their home sites by January of this year after the original groundbreaking in May 2013.

The sewer project came about because Tunis residents had experienced problems with private septic systems; and some who didn’t have septic systems were “straight piping” raw sewage into inappropriate containers and hauling it offsite.

Those environmental concerns were discovered in the spring of 2008, prompting the State of North Carolina to issue notices of violation against some Tunis residents and state environmental health personnel claiming existing septic systems were too close to the water of the nearby Chowan River, meaning those residents did not meet setback requirements for their systems in distance from the river and its fragile eco-structure.

Once the sewer system was installed, the water-tight system would then need to be tested for any possible leaks prior to being put online with hook-ups to residences.

But completion of the project is now at least eight months behind, and there are indications the contractor and the county are at a stalemate over the finished product.

“Our concern is no one’s hooked up and people have been left with rough yards; we’re tired of it, and still no sewer,” Yoder complained. “I’m fed up with the B.S. and want them to hurry up and hook us up. Somebody needs to get on the ball.”

Much of the excavated dirt from installation at homes in the village ended up as some 50 loads of fill-in for a gully-wash located behind the Yoder’s home.  Sunland later brought a final load of fill-dirt and left it in the yard beside the house.

“I let them dump dirt over here,” Yoder says, gesturing toward the shaded, wooded lot behind the house. “They pushed it down and graded it out. But the last load they brought they claimed up and down that it was topsoil; and when they dumped that pile over there it was nothing but mush. Mush to me ain’t topsail.”

Yoder said he has had difficulty mowing his lawn because of the leftover rock gravel not being removed.

“I had a nice yard,” he stated. “Now it’s just ruts and gravel, and I can hardly mow my grass.

“They never graded the whole lots,” Yoder said. “They graded about 15 feet off the road on the (Tunis) Road. They didn’t grade here on Church Street, and they never graded along the fence where it’s supposed to be graded.

“People down here have just been left with rough yards,” he maintained. “People are just tired of it.”

Yoder says some residents who did not sign up for sewer have had their yards disrupted.

“They tore (my neighbor’s) lot up and all they did was come in with a back-hoe and put in a lot of gravel, drug it, and left it.”

“We’ve tried, we’ve called, we’ve complained, and they don’t do nothing,” he alleged.

Yoder claims all the tanks and lids are in, that everything has been inspected, that the state and engineers have signed off on it.

Hertford County Manager Loria Williams says the Tunis Sewer District Board has taken on the responsibility for contracting hook-ups to get the 38 homes online; though that expense was originally to be borne by the individual homeowners.

“We can’t complain about Mrs. Williams,” Yoder said. “She and the county have been nice, but everybody down here is just fed up.  If they’re going to hook us up, then just hook us up, because right now nobody’s doing nothing.”

Yoder claims other residents echo his complaints, though he has been the most vocal.

“It’s my land,” Barbara Yoder chimed in. “They should have done something instead of just pulling off and leave and never come back. If we take it to an attorney it’s going to just mean paying more.”

“Don’t wait another six, eight, or ten months, “Yoder said. “Just do it.  Just hook us up. . We have called them weekly and each time we get the saying, ‘We will be there next week.’  Well, next week has never come.”