It was supposed to be a one-day repair that was not going to affect traffic on Royal Palms Parkway for more than a day, at most. The job was to be done on Spt. 16. Instead, the piping that was to be repaired collapsed, making the road impassable and leading to a much bigger repair job that will now cut a trench across the road to replace the pipes. That work won’t start until Sept. 27, and it won’t be done until around Oct. 11. The work will be done in-house.
Until then, all traffic is barred on Royal Palms Parkway–one of Palm Coast’s few and most-trafficked east-west through routes–from Belle Terre Parkway to Rickenbacker Drive. But no residences are affected by the closure: no driveways front on Royal Palms. And the piping in question is a set of stormwater pipes that do not affect residential water supplies. Even in case of a serious rain storm, pumps have been installed to evacuate the water that would have normally coursed through the piping beneath the road, so there is no danger of water backing up or flooding nearby residential lot.
The infrastructure failure, however, is indicative of a problem across the city: ITT’s infrastructure, laid down in the 1970s and 80s, is old. It is literally rotting, in the word of Kevin Nelson, the city’s stormwater maintenance supervisor who oversees much of that infrastructure, and it is breaking down simultaneously in many parts of the city. This isn’t a new problem. The city has been trying to stay ahead of the rot since 2012, when it approved the first very large increase in residents’ and businesses’ stormwater fees. At the time the city was generating $5.3 million from that revenue source but with annual needs of $7.6 million. A 46 percent fee increase was intended to help. It turned out to be not enough: repairing piping like the one under Royal Palms was not part of the plan, and other infrastructure needs emerged.
In 2018 the city council approved a plan that is on course to double stormwater fees from $11.5 in 2018 to $24 by 2024. It did so with little controversy: the council routinely set aside politics when it came to essential and critical needs within the city. It is difficult to imagine that today’s council would do likewise, despite the persistent needs.
In 2018, pipe inspections and repairs had a paltry $525,000 budget. The 2018 plan the council approved accelerated that to $2.5 million a year, with $2.15 million a year earmarked for pipe replacement at road crossings. In all, the six-year, $75 million plan is repairing, replacing or rehabilitating pipes, 31 major water control structures, 13 lakes, retention and detention ponds and canals, and 154 miles of ditches. Just a few weeks ago, the City Council approved a nearly $1 million contract to reinforce tens of thousands of feet of aging gravity sewer pipes in the W and P Sections. In 2019 and 2020, the city’s contractors had reinforced 60,000 feet of such pipes.
Most of those repairs are being conducted largely out of the public eye. Only rarely do infrastructure failures interfere with the public. (See the full plan as projected in 2018 here.)
The Royal Palms Parkway failure is one of those times. In an interview with FlaglerLive, Nelson explained the issues surrounding the failure and its coming repairs.
The one-day repair job was being carried out by a company called Advance Plumbing Technology–curiously, the very same company that lost the bid for the W and P sections to do similar work, because it was found to be “Non-responsible: Minimum experience requirement not met,” according to the bidding documents.
They were conducting what’s called “lining” pipes, or CIPP–cured-in-place pipe lining. It’s a method that enables the repair of aging, cracking pipes beneath roads or between without having to dig up the pipe, create “trenching,” remove existing piping or jeopardize the foundation of homes. It’s also much faster. A flexible liner filled with a resin mixture with an epoxy base is inserted into the failing pipe, which is then inflated and heated with boiling water, enabling the mixture to harden and resulting in a smooth pipe. The result is a very strong structure that extends the life of the pipe “at least 60, 70 years,” Nelson said. Watch a brief explanation:
Advance Plumbing’s workers were implementing those steps in the pipe beneath Royal Palms. “They didn’t do anything wrong,” Nelson said. “They cleaned the pipes and sometimes, when the pipes reach a certain degree of deterioration, water can either make the pipes collapse or open up new holes and bring soil via sedimentation inside the pipe.” There are actually two 125-foot pipes running across the road. Both will be replaced.
“They almost made it to the end before the pipe collapse and then that kind of set off a chain reaction,” Nelson said. “The pipe sandwiches down on itself and that creates an immediate void in the soil.” So any pressure from the top of the road, from vehicles or trucks, would end up collapsing the road to some extent. That’s been visible even within 24 hours of the collapse of the piping beneath the road. “You can already see a dramatic dip in the road the asphalt was starting to crack,” Nelson said. So it would not have been safe for traffic to resume on the road while awaiting the repairs starting next week.
The work will be done in-house by Nelson and his crew because it’s faster and cheaper than going through the procurement process and bidding out the job to another company. The job will be done for $54,000, Nelson said. If the job was contracted out, it would cost the city “well over $100,000,” he said. “We took on this job as a challenge for ourselves to save taxpayer money,” Nelson said. “We want to get the job done as quickly as possible because you got to keep in mind, if we contract this out it has to go through the same process as any contractor. It has to be bid out, there has to be a contract written up. It just it takes weeks, even in an emergency.”
The reason it couldn’t start until Sept. 27 is because Nelson still had to order and truck in the needed construction supplies–over 200 tons of lime rock road base, 100 tons of gravel, the piping itself (almost $20,000 just for that). “We’re estimating two weeks to be safe. I don’t want to make promises in case something goes wrong,” Nelson said of the timeline ahead. A lot of the equipment, including the piping and the road base, was in place by Wednesday. A different contractor will conduct the finishing, visible touches–the paving and striping for around $3,000.
“My crew members are very talented. They know how to do it,” Nelson said. The crew consists of Foreman Tim Lowe, Paul Bartnik, Andrew Torres, Mark Johnson and Brian Levan.
Meanwhile, “we have vehicles that ignore our barrier signs and try to get through there, but this one, this is actually a lot better. This is minimal compared to when we shut down Seminole Woods,” Nelson said. “Seminole Woods was a lot worse as far as people trying to cut in and use the cut-through.”
Given the aging infrastructure across the city and the still-pending list of needs, this may not be the last surprise inconvenience for city residents.
This infrastructure is about as bad as the school board
HA! I live in Seminole Woods and the road is still not completed. Original dates March thru June. Road is STILL closed and no end in site. One way in and one way out. HAVE NEVER SEEN ANY CITY ANYWHERE TAKE SO LONG IN ROAD COMPLETION!! Perhaps they should spend a little less time tagging doors if the grass is to long, or having someone move a vehicle with a company logo on it, etc. and put time and effort where it is needed.
David S. says
These stupid people could not even fix a rabbit hole in the middle of the street. It’s amazing to me that they waste millions on the holland park and are bitching about road costs….
Let’s not forget the urgency for pickleball courts in addition to a splash pad.
Peter Chichitano says
Well said Lottie, I live there also and can see every day the frustration daily by the increased speed on Sesame.
Did you live in Seminole Woods when we couldn’t get out to US 1 from Sesame? MONTHS OF HASSLE!
Questioning Palm Coast says
Wow. Let me tell you how fun it is to drive my kid to Rymfire and back each day from C section. 1st wade through Old Kings and Palm Coast Parkway, a deserted and permanent construction site (Although I did see one man in a tiny bob cat working on KFC driveway today, Massive progress on that eternal Hot Mess). Now Royal Palms is closed so every last person trying to get to the school is backed up a half mile from it on Rymfire dr. Add to this mix hundreds of construction trailers and workers trying to get to their sites as we hack down every square inch of forest to build 1000 new houses and you have one entirely miserable rush hour experience these days. I will continue to work in Palm Coast, But I am highly questioning my residency here, and lack of value for the dollar spent.
This is what happens when you keep taxes low and put off maintenance and capital expenditures. Eventually the bill comes due and it’s unnecessarily high due to a lack of planning. Think about how this affects your property value next time you rail against higher taxes.
Lack of roads and traffic jams are a much bigger eye-sore than commercial vehicles in residential driveways.
Concerned Citizen says
When your city council spends more time banging gavels and yelling out of order this is what happens.
Our city council has wasted so much time in pissing contests over the years that our infra structure continues to rot away. And we are left to deal with the inconvienince. And this is just one issue that has reared it’s head. Don’t think there isn’t more.
Instead of worrying about who parks what where. And who is out of order or doesn’t like someone, Our council needs to get their heads out of their rears. And start doing the job they were elected to do.
It’s just not the dismal infrastructure of Palm Coast and the clueless leadership, it’s also on display throughout the whole county.
I agree Mark that also the county non sense approvals of more housing starting with Plantation Bay additional approvals for housing inside that HOA when they are enduring still a failed potable and specially sewer water system irresponsibly bought out from their developer.
Maybe they should take the millions from expanding the money loosing tennis center and invest it in roads and truly needed projects. Looks like the city had money to burn?
All the while…BUILD MORE!, what could possibly go wrong?
Jay Tomm says
This proves one fact. Palm Coast is at a over crowding point. You close 1 road, & then I sit on Rymfire trying to turn on Bellterre for 10 minutes at 7:30am!
Peaches McGee says
For those of you fed up with PC’s traffic woes, inept city staff, and lack of sidewalks, I propose a solution.
Take I-95 northbound.
Concerned Citizen says
Lot’s of intolerant folks out there these days.
Gotta love the don’t like it then leave mentality. I suppose it’s easier than actually expecting the people you elect to do their jobs. If we act the way they do in the private work force we get fired and rightly so. Most companies don’t allow you to run around and create a hostile work environment. That entire meeting they just had was ridiculous and silly.
Maybe your OK with your money being spent on silly projects while we deal with major infrastructure issues. But most of us aren’t.
Consider going west too.
shy guy says
Does the city have any idea what’s happening around town? Case in point the Old King intersection widening. The two guys working on it aren’t getting very far and nobody is pushing them. Bring back Landon, then you’ll see things get done and done right.
Anyone who has been in Heavy Contstuction knows that Plan A does not work a lot of times. This is when Skilled Engineers earn their money by having Plans B&C. Failure to plan is planning to FAIL.
Celia M Pugliese says
I consider a great idea from Mr. Nelson Storm Water Manager to do the work in house securing in that way a faster completion of the work and more city jobs vacancies to open hiring of local work force and more “important saving the taxpayers 50% of the cost”.
As I lived in Palm Coast since 1991 I have seeing in the past millions from our utility reserve used for what was not actually the utility need, like the widening of Old Kings Road south to benefit Town Center and the costly lots acquisitions for the road project of Boulder Rock also to benefit Town Center. One thing is to lay and replace pipes another is to pave and widen a road and its maintenance afterwards. Palm Coast Utility needs to use its reserves for what is intended using our PC utility reserves as cash cow for unintended projects like Netts-Landon costly study of the saltwater plant which at least 1/4 billion cost that we could not afford at the end, was a misuse of our utility reserve funds that contributed to the increase in our utility fees. Our “water base rate” is as high as our “water use” then that should be plenty for infrastructure repair or replacement if the funds are not dilapidated to benefit developers like the Town Center and others. Those developers instead should be paying with their impact fees for the water utility connection needed for their large projects like any single family home house built in a single lot does. Right now any single family home connection to our utility cost over $10,000. I do not believe that a developer is charged the same, then we end up needing water treatment plants like the one in Matanzas Woods off US1 costing us all in our rates 22 millions, maybe more for the thousands of small lots housing approved there and our reserves get depleted. Can someone explain to me were is the fairness?
I voted for PC incorporation and also lobbied for Palm Coast to buy our utility and if I am in error with my concept of how our utility reserve was used in these over 20 years, please feel free to clarify.
COncerned Citizen says
I have long said this City doesn’t spend the money in the ways it needs to. And this current issue is a glaring fact of that. Now I’m not the smartest person in the world but common sense dictates that you can’t keep developing and widening roads without taking care of your infrastrcture. And now that we have a council that can’t get along getting important done will be even harder. Things like water, sewage and electric services only have so much service life. Not being properly maintained will lead to all sorts of failures. And once the major inconvieniences start up folks will really want to know where the money goes.
There is no reason for this infrastructure to be failing so soon. Sounds like poor workmanship combined with someones pocket getting filled when this was first built. But then again, what do you expect from the Jim-Bob Republicans?
Perhaps if the city focused on its crumbling roads, non existent sidewalks, very limited and dim street lights, raw sewage backing into ditches, pipes bursting, and over-all infrastructure, instead of doing what they want like building splash pads and pickle-ball courts, making empty promises about overhauling wadsworth skatepark, people would actually want to stay here instead of leave? Hell, Im in high school and even I can see the advantages of finishing citation Blvd. unto Old Kings Rd. over wasting money on tearing down a brand new park to build a damn bacteria breeding splash pad. The leadership here is simply unbelievable, and they wonder why their meetings are either dead or descend into chaos.