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Nightmare on Ramona Avenue 

Water pipe project turns into yearlong saga

click to enlarge Edelweiss owner Helga Schnakenberg confronts utility - workers.
  • Edelweiss owner Helga Schnakenberg confronts utility workers.

If the owners of the Edelweiss have any hair left on their heads to yank out, it's only due to loyal customers who have for nearly a year navigated a dusty, torn-up road to get to the restaurant.

The yearlong water pipe replacement project on Ramona Avenue south of downtown, where the Bavarian-style restaurant is located, should have taken two or three months.

"Any other restaurant would be out of business," said Dieter Schnakenberg, restaurant manager. The restaurant underwent a $800,000 renovation last year, and the Schnakenberg family hoped Colorado Springs Utility's plan to widen the street's water main from 4 to 8 inches would help their 38 year-old business expand.

It did the opposite. "It ruined our summer and our patio [business]," owner Helga Schnakenberg said.

Things began to go wrong in January, when BDG, a company that was subcontracted by Colorado Springs Utilities to bore holes into the street, took twice as long to finish a two-month job after its drilling truck broke down.

CSU took over in May, and the road project further backfired when the seals locking the main pipe to its branches began to explode. Since August, CSU has had to dig new holes into the street 11 times.

"We are as frustrated with that as the owners of the Edelweiss," said Rachel Beck, spokeswoman for Colorado Springs Utilities. "It's real frustrating for the guys working on the projects."

The clamps that hold the pipes together -- which are manufactured by PowerSeal -- have malfunctioned in other cities and will no longer be used in Colorado Springs, Beck said. CSU has asked the company to reimburse $60,000 -- which is exactly the amount of the original project's cost overrun. The project was expected to cost $80,000, but has come in at $140,000.

CSU's now plans to replace the clamp system with plastic piping that will not burst at the seams and the work should be completed by the end of this week, she said.

The Edelweiss, meanwhile, estimates its lost revenue to be $30,000 and intends on filing its own claim with CSU. "We have a utilities department with rates going up," Dieter Schnakenberg said. "[It] just shows complete lack of management and organization somewhere."

-- Dan Wilcock

  • Water pipe project turns into yearlong saga

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