Fifteen feet of a retaining wall that supports East Street in Jordan is beginning to fail — but it's not clear who's responsible for the maintenance.

Public Works Director Scott Haas told the Jordan City Council on Aug. 26 that the former public works director believes the city installed the wall. Documentation on the construction of the wall, however, was not located at the time of the meeting

The homeowners who live adjacent to the wall, Elaine and Tom Tollefson, said the city completed work on the wall several times between 2004 and 2008. A city report backs up those claims, stating that in 2004 repairs were made to East Street above the retaining wall and that the wall was extended 30-40 feet to close an alley connection behind the Tollefsons' property.

"Its been an issue of flooding ever since they've done that and the south end of the wall has collapsed twice," Elaine Tollefson said.

But City Engineer Mike Waltman said record drawings place the wall beyond the city right-of-way and on the Tollefsons' property — throwing the city's ownership of the wall into greater question.

City staff anticipates the wall will continue to lean and eventually fail if corrective action is not taken. However, they are uncertain how much longer the wall will last before falling over.

During the Aug. 26 meeting, city council directed city staffers to review the history of the wall's construction to determine ownership. A report by Waltman released Aug. 30 indicates that staff is unable to find any documents predating the 2004 repairs.

After meeting with the Tollefsons on Aug. 28, Waltman and city staff recommend the city pursue a 12-foot wide easement for the area over the wall, granting the city ownership of the wall and the ability to maintain or adjust the wall as it see's fit. Waltman said the Tollefsons verbally agreed to providing an easement at no cost.

The city council was slated to take the issue up at its Sept. 3 meeting.

Repair options

City staff recommended last month that only the failing portion of the wall be reconstructed. The proposed project would remove and salvage the retaining wall blocks in the failing section and install new drain tile behind the wall to promote drainage and relieve the added weight of water being supported by the wall.

Waltman also recommends installing a reinforcing mesh, or "geogrid," behind the repaired portion of the wall.

"It helps the weight of the soil behind it actually hold up the wall itself and keep it from leaning out in the future at that location," he said.

Salvaged blocks would then be reinstalled and the wall would be back-filled with free-draining granular material.

Quotes for this option were presented for council consideration Monday night. A bid received from TMS Companies, a Prior Lake firm that worked on the wall in 2008, quoted the project at $21,140.  Over half of the quoted cost is associated with necessary repairs and restoration of the street. 

If approved, Waltman said the project could be completed before winter.

In the meantime

While the city considers accepting ownership of the wall, the Tollefsons are left experiencing other problems they claim are related to the failing section of the wall. Elaine Tollefson said she reviewed the issue with an insurance claims adjuster who identified that water drains under the curb into the wall.

She said the garage block foundation is shifting and a wall is close to collapsing. Blocks are cracking and water is leaking onto their garage floor.

"He said the garage wall is definitely unsafe," Tollefson said.

"We've been to their place and there is a serious lack of proper drainage from the rain and snow melt," neighbor Julie Bishke said.

The public works department has monitored the wall since 2010 and Haas said the leaning has increased at an alarming rate over the past two years.

Tollefson said all she wants is a long-term solution to the issue.

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