I-Team Report: OSHA investigates Brandon water tower construction site

Published: Sep. 8, 2021 at 10:32 PM CDT
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BRANDON, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Although getting a water tower is a mark of progress for a community, residents that live on the street adjacent to the Brandon construction site are having difficulty getting to their homes and want answers about safety and communication.

Three families live on Chestnut Boulevard, which is now a construction zone for a new city of Brandon Water tower. Dave and Sandy Elofson, fifth-generation farmers are among the families finding it difficult to get to their home through the construction.

The original plan was to have a one-acre staging area, but the project was delayed.

“And that easement for the staging area expired. They have a one-acre area for the water tower, they have no staging area for it so that truckers and the construction workers have to use the area that they have,” said Sandy.

And that staging area, according to the Ellofsons, is Chestnut Boulevard, the only access to the homes. Drivers dodge construction vehicles, piles of rock, and trenches.

On August 13th, the Elofsons say they contacted the Sheriff to have a trailer towed off the road.

It was taking up more than half the road according to Dave, with no reflective devices to catch the attention of a driver. “With no flags, no flares, no lighted signs too, to actually show that there was equipment on the road,” said Dave.

The city of Brandon Administrator Bryan Read says the obstruction and safety issues are up to the contractor. Last Friday, OSHA visited the site and has opened up an investigation with AB Contracting based in Colman.

“If people have safety concerns on a project, OSHA is the appropriate entity to do those investigations, and then we will wait to see what OSHA comes up with,” said Read.

Our I-Team spoke with those living in the area around the construction site. They say a big frustration is the lack of communication about road closures.

“They’ve received correspondence regarding road closures, is my understanding,” said Read.

Families say they are not receiving consistent correspondence from the city. Brandon Engineer Tami Jansma provided us her account of notifying residents. She sites a text message alert sent to residents about portions of the road being closed. She also says digital signs were put up on nearby roads, a Facebook message was sent to one resident, and she talked to another resident while putting up a sign. The Elofsons say they receive a notifying letter last month, while the other two families did not.

Our I-Team has reached out to Stockwell Engineers, AB Contracting, and C B and I of Houston. We did not receive a response.

Dave and Sandy believe there should be more oversight.

“They should be out here. There’s a council there’s a mayor there are engineers, and they don’t know what’s going on out here at this project,” said Sandy. “Only three families here and we’re just not being heard and it’s not just us. It’s the whole community.”

OSHA representative Scott Allen says the investigation could take up to six months, and they do not have the authority to stop the project, only secure the areas being investigated.

City manager Bryan Read says he heard resident concerns at a Tuesday council meeting and will talk with the contractor about equipment occupying the roadway, and safety measures at a meeting this week.

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