For the second time in less than a year and for the fourth time in four years, homeowners in a White River Township subdivision are planning to ask county officials to do something about crumbling concrete streets in their neighborhood.
Concrete streets in Willow Lakes, a neighborhood built in the 1980s and 90s located northwest of State Road 135 and Stones Crossing Road, have been a problem for at least 20 years, but have gotten progressively worse in the last decade or so, long-time residents say.
Long-time residents and homeowners association members have successfully advocated for repairs, but say more work is needed. In a May 2 letter addressed to the Johnson County Board of Commissioners, members of the Willow Lakes Homeowners Association requested to be included on the Commissioners’ meeting agenda for May 9, because they have unanswered questions about how their streets will be repaired.
Firstly, they have questions about two road projects that were supposed to be completed last year. In August 2021, residents were told the county received funding to fix portions of Willow Street, Woods Court and Willow Court in the neighborhood through the state’s Community Crossings matching grant program. The Willow Street project was completed, but residents say the Woods Court and Willow Court repairs were not. These two streets are missing an asphalt surface layer, and the sidewalk ramps, the letter says.
They were also told that Willow Lakes Drive, Willow Lakes Circle Drive and Keyway Drive would be overlaid with asphalt in 2022.
“They did some work, but they sure didn’t finish it,” said Dan Cecil, a Willow Lakes resident.
Residents want to know why these two projects weren’t finished and when they will be, the letter says.
In a March 30, 2022 email from Johnson County Highway Director Luke Mastin provided by residents, Mastin told Cecil the 2021 projects for Woods Court and Willow Court would take place sometime this spring after asphalt plants reopened for normal operations. He didn’t explain in the email the reason for the delay.
For the 2022 projects, they were told Willow Lakes Drive, Willow Lakes Circle Drive and Keyway Drive were not among those selected to be funded by a Community Crossings matching grant, according to the letter.
In the email, Mastin said the streets were identified on a conditional basis, but since they were not approved for full Community Crossing funding the project won’t immediately go forward. Half of the roads the county submitted were chosen, and these three were not, he said in the email.
Mastin also said in the email that coming up money for road work is a challenge and the county would try to maintain momentum in addressing the street concerns in Willow lakes.
Residents say they interpreted this as meaning their streets will not be repaired as previously told by commissioners, the letter says.
Willow Lakes residents also have questions about a $5 million bond that they say they were told might be reissued.
This dates back to a June 2019 commissioners’ meeting where residents requested their streets be fixed. During the meeting, a county attorney read a letter on behalf of commissioner Ron West saying the repair of streets in Willow Lakes was overdue and recommended when a bond for Whiteland Road ended in December 2020, that a new one be issued to pay for the repairs, the letter says. West represents the northern third of the county, including Willow Lakes residents.
Members of the homeowners association then attended a January 2021 commissioner’s meeting, where they requested the bond be reissued. The commissioners indicated to the members that the bond would only be for $5 million, which would be a good start, but not sufficient to do all that was needed. It also would open the door to future financing, the letter says.
Residents want to know what the status of the bond is and if the commissioners are prepared to consider reissuing it for road repairs, according to the letter.
In subsequent questions, Willow Lakes residents also want to know if there are additional funding sources available that aren’t Community Crossings. They also want if the highway department or commissioners considered additional funding sources, and the status is if they have, the letter says.
The most important question they want an answer to on Monday is when the streets will be repaired, the letter says. Many residents are frustrated as each time they’ve reached out to county officials about their streets, they seem to get a different answer, said Dan Ryan, president of the Willow Lakes Homeowners Association.
“It feels like they’re trying to placate us,” Cecil said.
Homeowners are also disappointed with the quality of the repairs conducted by the county. With what repairs have been completed, residents say they’ve been subpar. In addition to the streets that are missing an asphalt layer, patches on portions of Willow Lakes Drive are missing the top coating, causing tar and gravel to shift and sometimes causing it to be washed down drains, Cecil said.
“They’re not finishing the job,” he said.
The finished job is not the smooth roads residents were hoping for. Residents also say the county failed to completely clean up after the work was done, leaving residents to clean up what remained, both Ryan and Cecil said.
There also are several examples of asphalt sealant peeling after repairs on some streets, the letter shows.
There is also another reason why they want the streets repaired sooner rather than later: an upcoming roundabout planned at the intersection of Stones Crossing Road and Saddle Club Road. A request for bids was sent out for the roundabout in February 2021, with a bid opening scheduled for July of this year, according to the Indiana Department of Transportation.
The exact time frame for construction likely won’t be determined until after bids are awarded.
Residents say the construction will lead to increased traffic through Willow Lakes, as many drivers use Willow Lakes Drive as a shortcut from Olive Branch Road to Stones Crossing Road. The increased traffic will accelerate the deterioration of the streets, and the streets need to be repaired before the roundabout construction begins, the letter says.
Homeowners in the area go through a waiting game for repairs every year, and residents just want the streets fixed and done nicely, said Bruce Bultman, a Willow Lakes resident and advisor to the homeowners association.
“The goal is to get (the county) to fix the streets. They need to do it right,” he said.
Residents are concerned about how the quality and appearance of the streets will impact their property values. The alternating concrete and asphalt patchwork is inconsistent with adjoining neighborhoods, and the potholes, broken pavement and loose concrete and gravel chunks are an eyesore and a hazard, residents wrote in the letter.
“We request the street repairs be given the priority they deserve. We deserve better! We demand better,” the letter says.