A portion of Kings Springs Road that fell into Sinking Creek in January. (Tony Duncan/Johnson City Press)
On Jan. 16, following a natural mishap in which a stretch of King Springs Road was made impassable when it fell into Sinking Creek, Assistant Public Works Director Mike Arsenault told the Johnson City Press the damage could take months to repair.
On Wednesday, six months after the fact, the city’s street division head flatly confessed that the city “just didn’t push it hard enough” in getting its act together sooner to make repairs that frustrated homeowners, motorists and nearby businesses.
Nothing has been done to restore the road since it was washed away when a weeklong storm dumped an estimated 10 inches of water on Johnson City.
Though concrete barriers and bright orange warning signs were placed on either end of the damaged road. The city also installed a few additional barricades in March to prevent motorists from accessing a crumbling section of that road and potentially careening into the creek.
That action was taken after a Toyota Corolla was found upside down in the creek that month with water gushing through it soon after it had swerved while negotiating a passage around existing barricades. Johnson City police called a tow truck to pull it out of the creek.
So why has it taken so long?
“It’s a combination of things,” Arsenault said Wednesday. “We were trying to figure out how to go about fixing it. In a nutshell, I suppose we just didn’t push it hard enough. It’s true; it’s taken a long time.”
Coincidently, a bid to repair the road to its original condition is on the City Commission agenda Thursday, and work to at least begin shoring up the more than 300 feet of gouged-out roadway could begin sometime next month.
Jack Cable, who lives at 1605 King Springs Road — the house nearest the damage if traveling north from Johnson City — said Wednesday he’d gotten tired of calling the city. Cable, who has friends and does business in Elizabethton, said he’s had to take a curvy Dave Buck Road and come out at the old drive-in site on the Old Elizabethton Highway.
“I think the city’s just forgotten about this area out here,” he said from his home Wednesday. “I’m sitting out here paying taxes, and I don’t feel like I’m getting anything for my money. I’ve called the city on a number of occasions, but I get a different person every time I call. It’s been this and that — ‘It will be started this week or next week.’”
Cable said a few cars drive to the barriers each day and turn around. He also said the closure has hurt businesses, such as Holt Motors across the street.
“I have to travel the back roads,” he said. “And a lot of people have been put out, not just me.”
On June 28, Johnson City received a Tennessee Municipal League Award for strategic planning, hiring and retaining top staff “while embracing a customer-oriented focus,” Pat Hardy, UT Municipal Technical Advisory Service consultant, said in a press release.
In late December, Johnson City participated in a National Citizen Survey. In the “city services” category, 23 responses rated city services about middle of the road; eight rated them below the benchmark; only three rated city services above the standard.
Edwardsville, Ind.-based Matrix Consulting Group completed a departmental review and recommended to City Manager Pete Peterson in April 2011 that he and city commissioners needed a bigger focus on customer service.