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April 24, 2014

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Henderson finds $300,000 to help neighborhood rebuild block walls

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Jeremy Twitchell

The sidewalk and a lane of traffic are closed on both sides of Whitney Ranch Drive in Henderson while work to repair crumbling block walls is underway.

Block Wall Repairs

Debris from construction work to rebuild a block wall along Whitney Ranch Drive spills out into the street. Residents in the area have expressed concern about the buildup of piles like this one. Launch slideshow »

Neighborhood

The city of Henderson has set aside $300,000 for no- and low-interest loans to help residents along a stretch of Whitney Ranch Drive repair deteriorating block walls that the city has labeled a safety hazard.

The walls are located on both sides of Whitney Ranch Drive between Sunset Road and Dunbar Drive, just north of Green Valley High School. Portions of the walls are leaning and crumbling, prompting a safety concern exacerbated by the daily foot traffic of students walking next to the walls on their way to and from the high school. The City Council approved the funding at its Sept. 15 meeting.

City officials considered the concern dire enough to dig for the money to help residents pay for the walls to be fixed or rebuilt, finding the money in a Local Improvement District (LID) fund, which the city uses to help build infrastructure in areas of new development. The city recoups its costs through monthly assessments on residents and businesses that move into the area.

“It was very urgent,” Henderson Affordable Housing Coordinator Doug Kuntz said. “It was one of the things that a couple council members were very concerned about. … (The walls) were falling over and their potential to do damage to someone was quite high.”

The city has identified 37 properties whose owners must fix or replace their wall or face a code violation and fines from the city. Some residents already have paid to have the work done on their own; 11 of them have applied for a loan from the city. Estimated costs to rebuild the wall range from thousands to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the size of an individual homeowner’s section of the wall.

The loans have a seven-year term at 3 percent interest, though low-income homeowners may be eligible for interest-free loans, Kuntz said. Resident Danny Connell, who rents a home that had to have its rear wall replaced, said he didn’t agree with the city’s assessment of the walls.

“There’s nothing you can do,” he said. “It’s a really (rough) deal. (The walls) would have never come down.”

Kuntz said residents whose walls are deemed unsafe have the option of seeking a second opinion, and if an engineering firm finds the wall to be stable, Henderson will drop its concern.

Connell’s landlord, who also happens to be his nephew, repaired the wall at his own expense some months ago. Though Connell himself didn’t have to pay anything, he said the work on other walls is beginning to impact the neighborhood.

Henderson has closed the sidewalks on both sides of Whitney Ranch Drive as well as one lane of traffic in each direction, though residents say vehicle and foot traffic on the road is still heavy before and after school.

Residents, however, say they are more concerned about growing piles of debris forming on the sidewalk and spilling out onto the street where work is going on. One resident driving on Whitney Ranch Drive slowed down just long enough to register his complaint about the piles.

Connell said one large pile of debris a few houses away from his house has been there for two weeks, even though work on that section of the wall is complete.

“There’s no sense in them doing that,” he said.

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