Q.-9. How do you summarize the results of this investigation?
A.-9. The unexpected-but-propitious outcome of a long and tedious boondoggle.
Q.-10. What is a boondoggle?
A.-10. A lot of extra, unnecessary work. Governments are the worst offenders because they are bogged down in bureaucratic red tape. This causes delays, mixups in communication, and passing the buck. The result is that a task can take at least three times as long to complete as it would in the private sector. After the city of Springfield had boondoggled me for a few years, I boondoggled in return. It started after the July 12, 2000 flood and hasn't been resolved yet.
Q.-11. What was so propitious?
A.-11. The long serious of delays and non-responses I received from the city, after I started filing reports about flood conditions affecting my house, caused me to get suspicious. Was I trying to open a can of worms the City of Springfield wanted to keep closed? The longer I waited for response from the city the more I started asking questions, and the more questions I asked, the deeper and broader the search for answers took me.
Q.-12. Can you give a couple of ''for instances" that were turning points?
A.-12. There were lots of twists and turns, but three incidents were outstanding as they relate to my decision to stick with this project which, due to delays, might have caused someone else to abandon it if he or she didn't go broke or die first.
A. EPIPHANY: After I began submitting reports to the City of Springfield's law department, updating the status of my property after different flood-related and sewage-backup events, I naively believed I could negotiate a fair settlement while, at the same time, advising the city about conditions it might not know about in relation to my property. I offered to sell the house at reasonable terms to which no response was received. I was becoming discouraged from the total lack of acknowledgment that dragged on, on and on In need of wisdom, insight into the situation's status, and guidance about what to do next, I performed the popular exercise then getting a lot of publicity in which a person asks, "What would Jesus do?" With that question in mind, I went to sleep. I awakened in a dream state that provided a metaphorical image of who and what I could become if I didn't do something to change my approach and stance. In the dream, I was a broke, homeless, decrepit old bag lady in rags and pushing a shopping cart.
In that epiphany, I knew the city had no intention of accepting or discussing my offer, and I would become the image in the dream if I continued waiting passively for an equitable, honorable outcome. My moment of decision was at hand. To be, or not to be, a victim doomed to defeat by her own inaction?
I made the choice to pursue the matter. I wrote to the city, for the purpose of going on record, to withdraw my offer and, if forced to do so, become a bag lady outside city hall. That's when I became a creative boondoggler who used investigative reporting and undercover detective techniques to gather the evidence I did not formerly imagine even existed.
B. DISCOVERY: Talking with people who had first-hand knowledge was part of my plan, so I approached one of the few remaining neighbors who had been part of old Neighborhood Watch No. 377 and who still lives in her house at 1937 South Avenue. Nan Mitchell told me about how her children used to play in a drainage ditch or pond north of South Avenue, how water flowed through the back yards on her block, and how the city installed an underground pipe (Culvert) to handle the drainage. I was onto something, and it could be bigger than I had previously expected.
Further investigation included several interviews with William T. West, retired sanitary sewer worker from the Department of Public Works, who recalled many visits to the South Avenue-Washita Street area (site of Manhole 13) in response to complaints from Delmer Campbell. The Campbell basement at 1903 South Avenue was frequently inundated with sewage. Mr. West also described repairs to a section of sanitary sewer line west of Manhole 13 which were made in the freezing darkness of winter. He said that instead of replacing the defective line, a shortcut was taken in which the clay pipes were lined with material that reduced capacity to carry the sewage, and was defective. A worker accidentally stepped on it and crushed it.
C. REVELATION: Following a summer flood, I was in my yard at dusk on a warm evening. I spotted a dark, slimy creature that looked like a snake crawling through the muddy grass roots. I lifted it with a stick and beheld the biggest earthworm I had ever seen. It was longer than my index finger and just as round. I showed it to my neighbor, Bernice McNiel a veteran fisherwoman who has lived at 209 E. Washita since her house was two years old. She said, "That's not an earthworm. It's a night crawler." If fish bait was living in my yard, there must be a source of water very close to the surface, and its presence could be causing the perpetual moisture under my house that lasted for weeks after a flood or rainfall.
Finding evidence was not easy, but I located a Civil War map on which a stream runs straight up (or down) South Avenue. Through such revelation, I realized: I am literally opening a can of worms about which the City of Springfield is already aware, and not only my property-- but all homes in the neighborhood--are affected
Q.-13. What did you do about your discoveries?
A.-13. In March 2004 I invited concerned neighbors to a meeting at my house and the SASS neighborhoodwatch group was formed.
Q.-14. How would you summarize this investigative boondoggle?
A.-14. While I was trekking through the mud of history, the City of Springfield was trying to cover its tracks.
Questions 1 through 14 will remain posted on this web site through August 7, 2009. Additional material will appear on August 8 through August 17. Our plan is to continue posting sections in sequence until the entire text of FUNGUS AMUNGUS has been featured as a public service. If you are further interested in the issues raised in this report, and/or the purchase of Wanda Sue Parrott's property by the City of Springfield, please click on the links below: