Thursday, February 24, 2011

PUSH BACK: Public Works director fights Council over alley project

No can do, Glascock tells Council
COLUMBIA, 2/24/11  (Beat Byte) -- "We don't want to dig in the alley.  We don't want to maintain plastic pipes.  We don't want to restore old brick streets."  
"We don't and we can't" was the resounding message City of Columbia public works director John Glascock delivered to the Columbia City Council Monday night, as he pushed back on virtually every suggestion about how to improve stormwater drainage along the increasingly popular Alley A in downtown Columbia, the site of several historic renovation projects that have populated it with thriving businesses. 
First Ward Councilman Paul Sturtz urged the Council and Mr. Glascock to consider Columbia's downtown city-owned alleys unique, irreplaceable treasures where "millions of dollars of investment has occurred."   Fifth and Sixth Ward Councilwomen Laura Nauser and Barbara Hoppe reminded of the continuing need for City Hall to support the downtown area's renaissance. 
Glascock, however, would have none of it, his steadfast resistance standing in stark and ironic contrast to City Hall's recent multi-million dollar downtown redevelopment efforts.  
"Those historical people"
Alley A business owners including John and Vicki Ott, Warren Dalton, and Nick Peckham approached City Hall about a joint effort to correct an "historic and ongoing stormwater problem," their civil engineer, Jay Gebhardt, wrote in a letter requesting city government's help.  Gebhardt suggested several innovations, including the use of high density polyethylene plastic pipe, to work around the alley's narrow constraints.   
But Glascock said the pipe was non-standard, and insisted that fixing the alleys would mean shifting priorities.  He illustrated his point with at least one poorly-chosen example
"What do I tell Ms. [Pat] Fowler who's flooding down on 6th Street?  What do I tell people on Aldeah who's flooding over there?"  he shot back.  "You gonna put these people ahead of those?" 
But Glascock himself sent Patricia Fowler to the end of the line.  She voiced several eloquent complaints about flooding around her home in the North Central Village neighborhood, after the public works director waived several stormwater mitigation requirements so that Columbia Public Schools could build a new parking lot next door.  
At a public hearing about the issue, public works employee Shane Creech also told Fowler and others that city government had no intention of addressing the long-standing stormwater and flooding problems in the North Central Village area anytime soon.    
Glascock also chafed at a suggestion by "those historical people" to restore the original bricks along Alley A which currently lay beneath asphalt.  Downtown's few exposed brick streets have proven popular, especially with tourists.  "The historical people want to restore all the brick downtown," he said. 
"You mean the Historic Preservation Commission?" Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barb Hoppe asked. 
"I guess that's who it was," Glascock replied impatiently, characterizing brick street restoration as "another can of worms." 
Massive flooding, Exhibit A
"I would disagree, sir," Glascock responded to First Ward Councilman Paul Sturtz, when Sturtz -- who owns several downtown businesses -- repeatedly explained that Alley A's stormwater problem was among the worst he'd seen. 
"I think this is a pretty unique alley when it comes to stormwater," Sturtz said.  "There's a lot of stormwater that gets brought directly down this alley.  It's really a flood, in a dangerous way that I don't experience in any other alley downtown."
"It's only a problem when people walk down it," Glascock retorted.  "It was that way when they asked to put businesses in.  Nothing has changed." 
No compromise
Complaining that fixing the alleys was "no different than a development," with infrastructure costs borne by a developer, Glascock told Council members that Alley A's "developers should be doing the work like everyone else." 

To a compromise 4th Ward Councilman Daryl Dudley suggested -- that Glascock "work with" the business owners on Alley A -- the public works honcho interrupted so loudly Dudley had to repeat himself.  "I don't have the money," Glascock barked.   

It wasn't the first time he mentioned money, repeatedly emphasizing that funding to fix alleys would "have to come from somewhere -- from my budget or the stormwater budget or somewhere." 

After the discussion, Council members seemed, if not cowed, subdued.  Glascock, however, continued to bluster.   Should Alley A's owners construct a stormwater fix, "I gotta go in and maintain it.  I gotta do it. There's gonna be liability," he concluded. 


  1. Which downtown businesses does Paul Sturtz own?

  2. This is a rare occasion where I have to side with Mr. Glascock. When Mr. Ott built a store front on the back of one of his buildings that opened to an alley, he knew full well what the conditions of said alley were. If he know thinks that the alley is inadequate to support his property he should solely bear responsibility for any improvements.

    The city bent over backwards when they allowed Mr. Ott to do this project in this manner in the first place. The worst of which was removing a trash compactor in the "spur" alley that comes off of Cherry street. This trash compactor served several businesses and was removed for the benefit of ONE land owner.

    Now Mr. Ott is asserting that the public should expend precious resources to improve HIS situation that HE created. That is a fantastic request if I have ever seen one.

  3. Fascinating. Mr Glascock has so much to say about "what do I tell Mrs so and such" when their property floods. It is almost a year now that my house got flooded by sewage and destroyed under the direct supervision of Mr. Glascock's office. Yet, he and his office refuse to talk to me when I bring up the topic that at one point I would like my house back.
    Clearly the right man in the right place, unless you take the word 'public' in public works seriously.

    Wouter Montfrooij
    owner of destroyed property 208 W. Brandon

  4. Sounds like Mr Glascock just does not want to work on any solution to these business owner's ongoing issues in Alley A. Maybe those business
    owners should look at a Class Action Law Suit in Federal Court in the future.

    We had enough money to build the ugly parking garage and the new monument of a City Hall and to help all of these TIF's and such and
    Mike Martin showed all of this excess money in all of those various places in the City Budget but Glascock says there is NO MONEY to help
    this issue in Alley A?

    Hey Mr Glascock, did you ever hear about going after Federal Historical Preservation Grants or is your department too busy looking for those
    new vehicles you will say you must have in next year's City Budget?

  5. Which downtown businesses does Paul Sturtz own?

  6. Last I knew, he owned Ragtag Cinemacafe and the True-False Film Festival