On Dec. 11, a contracting company hired by Lake Worth started tearing up North M Street as part of the $40 million Neighborhood Road Program.
Workers didn’t return until Jan. 4, two days after they were scheduled to.
“We were all happy because we want the road to be fixed,” said one resident who lives on the street and didn’t want his name used. “But a week goes by, nobody shows up. Two weeks go by, no one showed up. All that dust gets kicked up and we can’t open our windows or sit outside. It was terrible.”
But Felipe Lofaso, Lake Worth’s assistant director for public services, said the holidays and road test results were to blame for the delay.
“Everybody was taking vacation time,” he said.
The resident, who has lived with his wife on M Street for almost five years, was concerned.
He called the Environment Protection Agency. He called the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. He called Lofaso and City Commissioner Omari Hardy.
“I didn’t want to wait to have cancer before I did something,” he said. “Who knows what’s in that dust. It could be asbestos for all I know.”
Hardy said he was just as worried.
“We can’t ever have a situation where we tear up a road on Dec. 11 and don’t come back until a month later,” he said. “That can’t ever happen again and if it does, I’ll be bringing my concerns to staff to find some accountability.”
Lofaso said during a road construction project, these types of issues are expected. “It’s not neat work since you’re dealing with dirt and asphalt,” he said.
As part of such a large road project, Lofaso said contractors must remove the existing asphalt, which is dilapidated, before rebuilding the road.
“There are testing requirements associated with rebuilding a roadway,” Lofaso said. “We have to send out sample materials to a lab and those samples take about two weeks to get the results.”
Lionel Bernier has lived at 1407 N. M St. since 1989. He also wasn’t happy about all the dirty conditions.
“It’s been very dusty,” he said. “You can’t imagine how much dust there was.”
Lofaso said the project spans about 20 city blocks and will be finished by December, if not sooner.
He said he’s talked to a number of residents and apologized.
“This is not the way we like to have projects,” he said. “We responded with a water truck to wet down the material and tried responding the best way we could given the circumstances.”
The resident said he loves his neighbors and his neighborhood.
“The potholes have been an issue, but I’d rather have potholes than this,” he said.