"I'll believe it when I see it" - Residents losing faith in railway company
CROWLEY - Well, the weekend that the residents of Gray Lawn subdivision were concerned about has passed. Though the rains got heavy at times, it was not nearly as bad as some had feared and there were no problems with the drainage in the area as many had feared there would be.
“We were lucky,” said Crowley Tourism Director Charlotte Jeffers, who along with her mother, Elaine Robison, live in the area. “If we had gotten the rain in Calcasieu Parish (where Lake Charles saw 8 inches of precipitation and Sulphur saw 10) things could have been very bad.”
As mentioned in the first part of this series Sunday, the flooding that inundated Crowley on January 10-11 of this year was especially hard on the residents of Gray Lawn subdivision in that most of them did not have flood insurance because they were assured that they did not live in a high-risk flood area.
Many had to move in with friends and relatives while their homes were being repaired and had to spend thousands of dollars on repairs to their floors and other items which were located in the low areas of their homes.
When they asked Mike Habetz of the Sixth Ward Drainage Board why this occurred, he did some investigating into the matter.
It turned out that a culvert, which was supposed to be maintained by the Burlington Northern/Santa Fe Railway Company (BNSF) had caused the problem with the drainage.
When contacted on Friday, BNSF representative Joseph Faulst acknowledged that the culvert was supposed to be repaired by now.
“We originally had it scheduled to be fixed in August,” said Faulst. “However, it was pushed back by mistake. I believe their may have been a miscommunication somewhere because that’s when the bidding process started.”
Faulst said that the contract for the repairs to the clogged culvert would begin within 30 days “weather permitting.” He also said that the new drainage system would have two culverts and would make the flow of drainage in the area much smoother.
However, this being hurricane season, the residents of the area will still be keeping a close eye on the weather until the drainage problem is complete.
Despite the promise of work beginning in 30 days, however, Habetz, who has been with the Ward Six Drainage Board for 20 years, remains skeptical.
“When this initially happened and I went to investigate, I saw the sign informing me that this was the property of BSNF and it had a number for me to call in case of emergency,” he said. “I called that number for three days and got no response.
“Mayor Greg Jones was kind enough to get us a camera to push into the culvert to see what the problem was and that’s when we found out that it had collapsed,” Habetz added.
The Post-Signal obtained the BNSF emergency number from a box alongside the railway along Hwy. 90 Monday afternoon. When we called it a machine said to “press 1 in case of emergency.”
Nobody answered our call.
“It wasn’t until Jack Montoucet (District 42 representative) called a friend of his from another railway company, who got in touch with the people from BNSF, that someone showed up,” said Habetz. “And they must have been there in 45 minutes.”
However, while a phone call from a legislator may have motivated them to send someone to the scene, the delays continued.
“What really upsets me is that the people along Riceland Drive in the subdivision know who is liable,” Habetz said. “They trusted these people to do what they said they would do and we’re still waiting.
“I don’t have much nice to say about Burlington to be honest with you. I won’t believe the construction is coming until I actually see it.”
Gray Lawn resident Becky Douget echoed the sentiment.
“We’ve been so trusting of these people and I think that’s what made them put us on the back burner,” she said. “I’m at the point now where I think that a class action lawsuit may be the only way to get their attention.
“I still walk on a cement floor because I didn’t have flood insurance to replace all my things,” Douget continued. “And the stress of not knowing if another storm is coming ... well it gets to you.”
So, for the residents of Gray Lawn subdivision, they are relieved to have dodged a bullet this past weekend. They are cautiously optimistic that, within the next few weeks, work will begin to improve a drainage system that caused so much damage during the January flood that most Crowley residents will never forget.
However, suffice it to say, their trust in the Burlington Northern/Santa Fe Railway company is quickly diminishing. In fact, it may be completely faded by now.
And from the sound of some of the residents, they may be prepared to do something about it.