MSD to explore other options for controversial Smoketown drainag - WDRB 41 Louisville News

MSD to explore other options for controversial Smoketown drainage basin

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- An outcry from one of Louisville's oldest neighborhoods could mean changes to a controversial construction project.

Following complaints from neighbors, the Metropolitan Sewer District board has approved exploring a new design for a storm water drainage basin in Smoketown.

Construction is already well underway on the 17 million-gallon basin at the corner of Logan Street and Breckinridge Street.

It's designed to prevent sewage from overflowing into nearby Beargrass Creek during rainstorms. The basin is one of 11 such basins being built across the city, but one of only two being built above ground, and residents say that is the problem.

"It looks pretty much like a prison," said F. Bruce Williams.

Williams has been pastor of Bates Memorial Baptist Church in Smoketown for 30 years. He says MSD never consulted the neighborhood about the basin design, and they're not going to stand for it.

"We're not asking for anything unreasonable," said Williams. "For it to be done like every other neighborhood, is not unreasonable." 

On Monday the MSD board voted to negotiate with the contractor about changing the design, burying it underground with a public park on top.

"We understand that we must hear and understand the needs of the citizens we serve," said board chair Cyndi Caudill.

The vote was unanimous, but there are concerns about adding to the projects $45 million price tag.

"We're making a decision here that's going to be fairly expensive to the ratepayers," board member John Phillips said. "I'm not sure it's in the best interest of the Smoketown community."

But Williams says cost should not be a factor.

"We're worth it," he said. "We're worth the expense of it. Again, the expense was created because the community wasn't listened to."

Some residents, who have been fighting for months, are still skeptical.

"We keep getting deferred; all the while the construction still goes on," Jessica Bellamy, secretary of the Smoketown Neighborhood Association. "And so we get further and further to a point where there is no return."

In a statement, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said the MSD board made the "right decision."

MSD Director Tony Parrott will report back to the board in April on the recommendations for moving forward, and the cost.

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