UPDATE: Spire workers returned to this street on May 13 to restart work on the project. They were accompanied by a private security officer.
Our original story…
O’FALLON PARK — Spire customers are upset that the natural gas utility (formerly Laclede Gas Company) hasn’t returned in more than two weeks to complete gas line and metering work, leaving the 4500 block of Athlone unsafe, unearthed, unsightly and undone.
A man representing Spire, who identified his self as Tom, returned a phone call to a concerned resident leaving the following voicemail message:
“That job has been shut down for a couple of weeks due to gunfire and I really do not know when we’ll be allowed to be back in that area,” he said on the recording.
A spire spokesman says the issues in the area were more complex than the phone message indicated. Justin Lapinot of Spire tells MetroSTL.com there was more than one incident that prompted the company’s security team to shut the job down and investigate. He said he was not permitted to get into specifics regarding just what happened, but indicated there was a specific threat to the safety of the crew.
“It was more than just gunshots, he said.”
A block resident, who didn’t want to be identified, was clearly frustrated with the initial explanation.
“It’s gunshots every day in the hood, and they had the police out there with them, so what’s the problem,” she said about to pull off in her SUV that was just steps away from a gaping hole covered by a wood board.
Spire says the’ve always been cognizant of safety for their crews, no matter where they are working. That vigilance was heightened in 2017 when two workers for what was then Laclede Gas were shot and killed in the Hamilton Heights neighborhood.
Lopinot says, when reacting to potential safety situations, “You can’t help but have that in the back of your mind.”
But those worries don’t change the reality of the torn up city block. Along with the boarded holes, the block is inundated with steel slabs and dirt piles, cordoned off by rows of caution tape, some work areas obstructing parking. On one day, children could be seen playing with work materials.
Block dweller Brittany Spates said she only saw the Spire workers put in work for a few days before they suddenly disappeared. She also recalled workers being “rude,” taking up most of the street, but said she understands the frustrations on all sides.
“It’s ridiculous that people can’t work in peace, but it’s also ridiculous that they left all this mess behind,” she said, adding, “They could at least clean up.”
Spates said the steel planks knocks air out of her car’s tires. And some cars have suffered flats.
The Spire spokesman says crews had returned to the area in the last day or two to attempt to straighten up the metal covers to holes in the street, and they expect to have the job back underway sometime next week. After that, it will take “a couple of weeks” to complete.
A newcomer to north city, Spates said she doesn’t understand why she has to pay a city tax if entities like the police department can’t keep people and workers safe.
“This only exists over here on the north side on Anthlone,” said Gary Willis of the abandoned work, some of which was left behind at his corner store, New Carrie’s Corner Market.
Like many of the residents, the corner store’s owner visibly has unfinished work on the side of his building, where workers are said to be installing exterior meters so that workers will no longer require access to the interior of customer’s homes.
The company, which recently took over Laclede Gas Company, is also said to be installing new gas lines throughout the city.