10Listens: Cumberland Ave. construction woes? Call 311, city says

Sept. 13, 2016: The Knoxville 311 Call Center is available to help with issues such as vehicle damage from a construction site.

KNOXVILLE - Construction sites are messy. That's no surprise.

Jim Hollis, however, says that mess can get excessive.

Holding up a damaged tire, this concerned Anderson County driver pointed to a yellow mark in the middle of the treads.

"It penetrated the tire right there," he said.

"It" is a big, sharp nail, he said, and the tire was new.

"What we're seeing is a new tire that was on the car for about ... two or three days," Hollis said.

Shortly after Hollis bought his granddaughter this tire, she was driving on and around Cumberland Avenue. She picked up a nail, which caused the tire to deflate.

"Then it blew out," Hollis said, pointing to a large hole in the tire's side wall. "It's a high probability that (the Cumberland corridor) is where she picked the debris up."

His other granddaughter had a similar issue.

"I had to have a tire repaired on the front of her car," Hollis said. "She had a screw in it and she'd been driving in that area down there."

Nobody was hurt in these incidents.

Hollis contacted WBIR 10News after seeing this 10Listens report. Part of that story highlighted a public alley that ran along a private construction site, parallel to Cumberland Ave between 17th and 18th streets. The alley, which connects drivers with parking lots, was littered with nails, screws and other sharp shards of metal that could damage tires - and has damaged tires, according to some.

"The construction companies down there could do a much better job of keeping the debris off of the street," Hollis said, in reaction to the report. "It's evident that they have a problem down there."

The private construction project is The Standard student housing, and its developer is Landmark Properties.

A spokesperson for the company told 10News last month it would be assigning more workers to sweep the area.

"Moving forward, we invite citizens or passersby who notice any issues to stop by the construction trailer onsite or send us their information via email at tskconstruction@landmarkproperties.com. We will listen, and we will make it right," the spokesperson said, in part. "In addition, we will be assigning more workers to conduct complete sweeps of the construction site and adjacent exterior areas to ensure these issues are fully resolved."

That was one month ago. 10Listens returned to the site to see if it had improved.

Some screws and nails still sat in the middle of the alley, though there were many sharp pieces of metal that had been swept up against the building, out of the way of cars.

While the site seemed improved from over a month ago, 10Listens still found pieces of metal that could damage tires.

If a driver does get vehicle damage they think is tied to a construction site, whether a private or public one, the city says: call 3-1-1.

"There's no such thing as a stupid question. There's no such thing as a silly complaint," 311 director Russ Jensen said Monday, from his office in the City County Building.

Knoxville's 311 call center fields 800 to 1,000 calls per day, Jensen said, with topics ranging from punctured tires and potholes to trash pickup and traffic.

"If you're doing business with the city of Knoxville or you have an issue with the city of Knoxville, 311 is Knoxville's phone number," Jensen said.

10Listens requested recent call data from 311. In the last four months, the center has received fewer than 40 calls about the Cumberland Corridor, some of which had nothing to do with the roads. Only two complained of a "dirty lot" in the same block as the alleyway. Altogether, there were no complaints specifically of tire damage from construction debris.

"If we don't know that there's an issue, we can't resolve it," said Anne Wallace, Knoxville's deputy director of redevelopment and manager of the Cumberland Avenue Corridor Project.

She said Cumberland Avenue sees more than 30,000 drivers per day.

In total, she pointed out, Knoxville's risk management department has received four claims for damages associated with the Cumberland Project. Two were rejected, one was referred to the contractor and the fourth the city is still investigating.

For his part, Hollis said he just wants to warn drivers about Cumberland corridor construction.

"Just be careful down there in that area," he said. "It was very aggravating because it's a new tire and I had to go and replace it," adding he paid more than $125 between a new tire for one granddaughter and a patch for the other.

He said he does not plan on calling 311.

"They're not going to do anything about it," Hollis said. "You get one of these lawyers down here and the first thing, 'Well, how do you know that she picked up the debris down there in that area?' You know?"

Jensen, on the other hand, asks that concerned drivers do call 3-1-1.

"Let us have the opportunity to research and go see what we can do to help people because that's what we're here for," he said. "People have no idea how much work is going on in the background and the communication that goes on between departments."

311 is a public service and publicly funded office, with eight call-takers working 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, except for holidays.

"We take that information. We send it to our Risk Management Department. Somebody in that department looks at that, evaluates it, calls that person back, does an investigation, and then they handle - just like you would an insurance claim - they handle it from there," Jensen said.

People with questions or concerns can call 311 or 215-4311 or send an email to 311office@knoxvilletn.gov.

"Athletics, Brush Pickup, Codes Enforcement, Dead Animal Pickup," 311 lists on its website. "Garbage Complaints, Leaf Pickup, Parking Tickets, Parks & Recreation, Pothole Repair/Streets, Recycling, Solid Waste Information, Street Light Outages, Storm Drains, Street Cleaning."

Jensen said even when a caller's complaint originates with a road or project outside of Knoxville's jurisdiction (for example, a TDOT road that runs through Knoxville), 311 will direct that concern to the appropriate agency.

"We actually call our customers and say, 'How are we doing?' And 86 percent of the people say we're closing things in a timely manner," Jensen said. "Find me another city in the country where almost 9 out of 10 people say things are getting done in a timely manner. And the good news is, is that matches our internal standards, almost to the decimal point."

As for that messy alleyway, Wallace said the contractor has an agreement with the city to repave and resurface it as construction on The Standard wraps up.

People can follow the progress of the Cumberland Avenue Corridor Project - and get updates on road closures - HERE.

(© 2016 WBIR)


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