jayellebee's Blog

April 12, 2013

In the Name of Progress?

Filed under: Musings — Joanne @ 4:44 pm
Tags: , ,

Nevada City sceneMaintaining the small town ambiance of a rural, foothill community is hard to balance with satisfying the needs and wants of the citizens.  Sometimes ordinances are passed to help draw that line in the forest.  For example, in Nevada City, diners can choose from an abundance of non-chain restaurants featuring vegan, organic, farm-to-table and even international fare.  We have everything from intimate coffee shops to dress-up-and-bring-your-American-Express-card haute cuisine.  But fast food establishments are verboten

Bumper stickers encourage us to patronize our hometownBlog pix 002 merchants rather than driving “down the hill” to the big box stores or spending our money online.  I get it.  People need to be able to make a living before they can afford to live here.  And by choosing to live here, we are choosing a certain lifestyle not found elsewhere.

That’s why I’m flummoxed by the County Supervisors’ decision to hire a construction firm from Minnesota to trench and lay the conduit for a modern fiber optic system which, if you believe the hype, will be a boon to local businesses.  Excuse me?  Last time I looked, Minnesota was waaay out of the neighborhood.

Considering the inherent expense of driving an armada of construction vehicles something like 2000 miles each way — wear and tear, fuel, labor costs, lodging and meals — how could that firm have out-bid California companies and still made a profit?  And, doesn’t the buy local slogan apply to our civic leaders when they’re spending our tax dollars?

I must admit to a moment of giddiness when I learned the caravan of interlopers had to re-route through TEXAS on its way to the left coast.  Something to do with severe winter storms in the Rockies.  I believe “it serves them right” was the phrase that came to mind.

Had the imported workers provided stellar service, I might not be so agitated by the whole situation.  But considering what I observed up-close-and-personal along the perimeter of my property, I seriously doubt we paid for anything we couldn’t have obtained closer to home.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  These Minnesota men were friendly to a fault.  (Although one of them actually told me he used to be a logger and was salivating at all the trees here.  No way to make friends.)  But they just weren’t always keeping their eyes on the, um, world around them.

At the height of construction, I picked my way across our very narrow street to get the mail.  Being a quick study, I immediately noticed something was different.  Oh, yeah, the mailbox was in the dirt and the splintered post had a distinct list to port.  Hmm.

“Excuse me,” I  said to the nearest worker, “would you please point out the guy in charge?”Mailbox Damage 003

“That guy,” the man in the ditch said, “the one with the white hard hat.”

“Sir,” I said, “there’s a problem with my mailbox.”


“Yes, sir.  Last time I looked the box was attached to the post, which stood tall and straight.”

“Yeah.  The local cement company’s truck backed over it.”

“Are you sure?  The tire marks in the mud look pretty close together to be from a cement truck.”

“Uh, well, someone backed over it.  I dragged the box out of the street.”

“Okay, then.”  An awkward silence.  I’m thinking this guy has something to hide and it’s just a matter of time before he rolls over on the culprit.  He stares at me, waiting.  “So, how do I get your company to do something about repairing the damage?”

Our mail delivery person had prudently decided not to leave our letters in the grounded box, so I walked Shadow instead of paying bills.  A hundred yards downhill we came to a soaring 120+ foot tall cedarMailbox Damage 002 standing beside the road.  A section of the external “cork cambium” eighteen inches wide and eight feet high had been skinned clean off the tree, exposing the moist “living phloem” beneath.

I called my husband to alert him to the newest issue.  A different White Hat assured Ken his company was as concerned about the environment as we were.  Steps would be taken to mediate this unfortunate accident.  Ken got the man’s card and took the issue to the county.  Should the tree die and need to be removed (it towers over power lines), we don’t want to cough up the price.

Heavy rain the next day prevented further trenching, but White Hat showed up to correct the mailbox problem.  He faced the scene of the crime, boards in hand, scratching his head.  A new 4 x 4 post and a bag of concrete mix were visible in the bed of his pick-up.  He had no shovel, no saw, no idea what the original installation had looked like . . . .

“Tell you what,” my detail oriented husband told the man.  “You dig out the old post, get rid of the old wood and concrete, and set the new post.  I’ll do the rest.”

The rain turned to intermittent showers and the crew returned to fight another day.  Their trenching machinery snagged our up-hill neighbors’ irrigation water line, sending a flood of muddy water, gravel and miscellaneous flotsam down the road.  fiberoptic,tree 005Next, the drilling team charged with tunneling under our driveway to connect the trenches on either side nicked an electrical conduit.  Just like that six families were without irrigation water and four homes lost power.  Another interesting day in paradise.

Several weeks have passed.  The trucks and men have left the room.  Mail delivery has resumed but our tree is still naked.  There are places where the ends of the tubing which will eventually hold those all-important fiber optic cables have not yet been connected.  I suspect the guys who left the mess are thinking, “Not my problem.”Blog pix 005

Really?  The Nevada County supervisors couldn’t have found a local contractor capable of such mayhem?

Maybe I’m just wicked, but I do take solace knowing the Minnesotans left a spanking new $7500 drilling bit, the attached transmission and many feet of metal driver buried on my property,  twelve feet down and wedged between three huge granite boulders.

You betcha.



  1. Priceless . . . in so many ways . . . !

    Comment by lizbooks — April 12, 2013 @ 6:44 pm | Reply

  2. Unbelievable even as it’s totally believable. So well done, Joanne. I seethe and laugh simultaneously.

    Comment by Jean Georgakopoulos — April 12, 2013 @ 7:17 pm | Reply

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