Frustrated Houston neighborhood waits as major sidewalk project lags

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Homeowners in one west Houston neighborhood say they've been waiting for weeks to have their driveways fixed by the city of Houston. (KTRK)

Homes in a Spring Branch Houston neighborhood have had their driveways dug up for weeks as part of a city project, and city officials can't pinpoint a date on when dozens of homeowners will get their driveways back, due in part to convoluted city rules.

As it stands now, every driveway on Knoboak Drive stretching for blocks is little more than mud pits with twisted rebar, trash and discarded wood. The unfinished driveways and gaps in between unfinished sidewalks are a danger.

On a recent evening, Pat Matthews said she tripped and fell over steel rebar rods a city contractor left behind in her yard.

"You can't see the rebar in the grass," she said. "I tripped over the rebar and it was like a comedy of errors; I kept tripping and tripping and tripping. I broke my finger, broke my glasses, scraped my face damaged the muscles in my leg."

Matthews said the real pain is not having a driveway, particularly with a disabled husband.

"They told me it would be done two weeks ago," she said, pointing to a muddy square where her driveway was.

The reason for the delay starts with a contractor the city of Houston admits has not lived up to the job. And city officials say their hands are tied by rules that make it difficult for city officials to fire a contractor, even if those contractors are performing slow and shoddy work, officials said. Those same rules say that if a contractor is fired, the city must rebid the project. That is a process that could take months.

The contractor, Current Construction, has been cited by the city for unsatisfactory work, for slow work and for not paying their subcontractors. The city has also withheld payments to the contractor.

The city's public works department is continuing to work with the contractor in the hopes they can still get the work done soon. City officials, though, would not estimate a completion date. Officials did say that Current will lose $800 each day the project is not completed starting Sept. 15.

The person who answered the phone at Current Construction blamed delays on the rain as well as a subcontractor who wasn't feeling good and who had a machine break down.

He quickly got off the phone, though, after promising to call back to set up an interview.

That call has not yet come.

A city supervisor on the scene drove off when Ted Oberg Investigates attempted to ask questions.

The contractor had a crew of four out at the street Thursday,with one of the team using a machine to flatten the dirt of one of the driveways. It's unclear what the other three were doing. One of the team said they would have the work done quickly.

Neighbor David Baldwin doesn't buy it.

"My driveway, well, it's a mess," he said. "The city of Houston came through here, said they were going to put in sidewalks and gave us notices they would take out the driveways. They said it would be done quickly."

He hasn't seen progress in almost two weeks.

"I don't have a lot of faith in the City of Houston," Baldwin said.

Ted Oberg Investigates will keep you updated.
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