Back yards being returned on Pearl Street|[6/16/06]

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 16, 2006

Residents on Pearl Street might recognize their back- yards again by the end of the month, railroad and construction spokesmen said Thursday, nearly six months after their land began to crack and slide toward a track near the Yazoo Canal.

In the meantime, though, several homeowners said foundation problems caused by the sloughing have not been addressed.

&#8220The Kansas City Southern Railway Company has completed the basic structural work to the hillside,” KCS spokesman Doniele Kane said. &#8220The work on the neighbors’ yards will be done within two weeks.”

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Work behind the dozen or so houses has been overseen by P.B. Sloan, construction manager for Brandon contractor Foster, Jones and Associates, whose crew was finishing the roadbed on which a new KCS track was being built when the first sloughing began shortly after Christmas.

After three months of heavy machinery stabilizing the hillside with a rock buttress, smoothing the jagged land and restoring a slope toward the tracks, he said Thursday the project lacks only the replanting of grass, trees and shrubs.

&#8220We expect to be done by the end of (next) week,” Sloan said Thursday. &#8220It’s just about finished. The landscaper should be out there by early next week.”

Backyards up to the edge of KCS’ property line have been tread to dirt by heavy equipment stabilizing the slide and creating the new slope, and to dust by the lack of rain in the city this month. Two weeks into the month, Vicksburg has received virtually no rainfall in June and is 7 inches below normal for the year to date, according to the National Weather Service.

Some residents said communication with the company had been poor since the work began. Other problems, such as a crack in the foundation of 2630 Pearl, where Clara Frazier lives with her mother, Letha Frazier, they said have not been addressed at all.

&#8220All I know is, it’s a big, high pile of dirt from the railroad to where our backyard is,” said 36-year Pearl Street resident Gertrude Reed. &#8220I can put my finger between my dirt and the foundation to my house, and nobody’s said anything about that yet.”

Omar Nelson, an attorney with offices in Jackson and Vicksburg who represents several homeowners on the street, said Thursday the agreement with KCS was only to restore the yards to their original state and that no legal action was pending.

&#8220We believe that hopefully they will get it rectified and we won’t have to resort to any legal options,” Nelson said.

Along with porches, clotheslines, basketball goals, patios, sheds and electrical poles, the sloughing also damaged a city natural gas line along the railroad right-of-way, which strategic planner Paul Rogers has said cost the city more than $40,000 in extra purchasing and rerouting costs before the line was reopened last week.

In addition to the buttress built in March, KCS Engineering Director Lee Peek said the effort to stop the slides was aided by the installation of lateral drainage ditches that let water drain from beneath the surface, preventing the saturation of the fine loess soil that originally caused the soil to slide off the slick, water-resistant clay below.

&#8220We’ve stabilized it so it’s not moving,” Peek said at a March 9 meeting among a handful of residents, attorneys, elected officials at Reed’s home. &#8220It looks like things are in good shape.

Despite those assurances, Vicksburg police and fire personnel delivered a notice to nine-block area between Lee and Speed streets west of Washington Street on March 18 warning residents and businesses that a further slide, though unlikely, could interrupt gas, water and electrical service.