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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Kick Into Overdrive

Stephanie Staton
Hobby Farms and Hobby Farm Home Editor

If you turn left into our driveway, you’re taking a chance—a big one. In fact, turning out of our driveway, regardless of direction, is a major risk each and every time. 

Our driveway is positioned just past the crest of a hill so that you cannot see oncoming traffic. It’s an illegal drive that was definitely not approved and most likely a rough access to the original farmland that was later broken into tracts and sold.

This little hazard has led to me and my passengers to experience some very close and unpleasant calls with drivers who, by my accounts, need to slow their roll. I’ve nearly been T-boned not once, not twice, but more than five times since purchasing this property. Even with every precaution—gauging potential oncoming traffic before reaching the end of the driveway, rolling down the window to listen for potential traffic and even stretching to try to glimpse it—this nasty little predicament has almost wreaked havoc on the physical well-being of my family and our truck.

My first step in remedying this situation was to call the state highway department to come out and mark an acceptable (and legal) entry point for the new driveway. This step was fairly easy and painless, and the employee gave me a fairly wide berth to place the new entrance so that we would have flexibility when it came time to involve the utilities and water districts in the plans.

The next step sounds easy: contact utilities and water company. I called 811 just like we’ve all been told to do before digging, they marked the existing lines, and we prepared to have the lines spotted (aka dug up to determine actual depth)—the latter of which has to be done by the company that owns the lines. The water district dug the line and recommended we contact the cable and Internet providers whose lines also crossed the area. I tried six times (kid you not). Both companies had no idea who to connect me to, left me on hold, disconnected me four and five times respectively, and passed me along to numerous individuals who were also less than helpful in getting me to the right person.

At my wit’s end, I called in tickets three times and decided I had done all that a reasonable person could be expected to do. (Mind you, it took a mere three sentences to cover it here, but it was hours on the phone, mostly spent on hold or explaining that I had already contact 811 and was directed to contact them.)

All this effort should have paid off. Instead, we found ourselves stuck between a rock and hard place. The water line was too shallow in the area approved for the driveway, so it would need to be lowered—a task I was assured was no easy matter and that regardless of my husband’s qualifications (he does this for a living, after all), we would be prohibited from performing ourselves. The water-district contractor’s labor quote tallied around $3,000—a hefty fee for moving one piece of this complicated puzzle and funding that we lacked.

With still no contact from the other companies, I called the water district to discuss other options. It seems there are no funds available to help someone in this predicament, even when it relates to public safety and rectifying an illegal issue—I spoke with judges, federal employees, more government officials and even some other contractors.

In a last-ditch effort to ensure the safety of my family with a legal and visible driveway, I called the highway department back out to resurvey the driveway options. They were more than happy to oblige, especially since they came through about two weeks after marking the drive and paved over their marks. With their assistance, we marked out some alternative options that pushed the bounds of their preference but opened the door to less interference with the existing lines.

The water line in the new location was just deep enough for us to dig down and still have the minimum 20 inches of cover in addition to the gravel bed. This was a big sigh of relief that proved a little ingenuity and a lot of connecting the dots could get us the result we so desperately needed without blowing up the piggy  bank.

Every time we turn out of the new driveway, I appreciate the time spent tracking down contacts and solving the impossible problems. (Oh, and the other companies finally got back to me within two days of our planned dig—surprisingly, they weren’t as difficult to deal with but they definitely had their moments.)

The effort of moving Stephanie Staton's driveway was not without its fair share of hassels. Photo by Stephanie Staton (HobbyFarms.com)
Photo by Stephanie Staton

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