Habitat project hits snag
Governors' wives worked hard to help bring housing project along.
By Annette C. Silva
Carl Sowell is grateful for "the first house we've ever had." It
has taken longer than anyone anticipated to get the new home ready
for its occupants, but the 39-year-old disabled father of two and
his wife Teresa are humbled by the help they've received from Habitat
for Humanity workers, including five state governors' wives.
"When the governors' wives were here [from Delaware, Oklahoma, Arkansas,
North Carolina and Georgia], they really worked - they were putting
up siding and shingles - they worked hard," said Sowell. The snag
came after they left.
The house was built on property bought by Habitat from Lee Littleton.
Things were going well, said former Habitat president Ernie Elsassar,
until it was time to hook up the property's sewer line to the street.
The survey didn't reveal the absence of a direct, separate sewer
line for this lot going perpendicular to Hall Street, Elsassar said
of the 215 S. Hall St. site where a former house, since burned down,
When they couldn't locate a sewer line by digging with shovels,
Habitat workers realized they would have to call in a company with
the necessary equipment for heavy-duty digging.
"There aren't too many companies in this area with that kind of
equipment," said Elsassar.
They called on Hopkins Construction Company, Bridgeville, which
gave them an estimate of $11,500. That estimate included installing
a new sewer line requiring deep trenches and reinforcement walls,
keeping with OSHA regulations.
Hopkins workers dug through the back yard in areas where they thought
a sewer line from the street might be located, not finding one.
"A job that should have taken part of a day ended up taking a day
and a half," said Kevin Pritchett, vice president of Hopkins.
They finally found a lateral line, located between neighbor Jean Crater's
and Sowell's homes on the Sowell property, running parallel to the
property line. (This is the sewer line that is connected to the Crater
home and that connects to a line located at the back of both properties
leading in from Budd Street.) Discovery of that line led to a terra
cotta diagonal connecting line running to Sowell's house.
"Initially we were told we couldn't hook up to the lateral line because
of OSHA regulations," said Elsassar, at that time believing Hopkins
would perhaps be installing a new, deep line.
In the end it was decided between the city and Habitat that they would
use the existing line.
Habitat folks still weren't assured that this would be the final solution.
"Someone from the city told us this was a temporary measure," said
City manager Dolores Slatcher says, "That's the way it's going to
stay unless someone complains."
"We'll leave it as it is," agreed director of public works Joe Santos,
who said neighbor Jean Crater has no problem with it. Santos says
the line is efficient.
"The line that connects to the street is 6 inches in diameter so there's
no problem," he said.
Unfortunately, Santos said, some of the old lines were put in 50 or
more years ago when terra cotta pipes were installed. "There were
almost no regulations or markings back then."
At this point (early January), Habitat members thought they would
end up absorbing half of the Hopkins Construction final bill (which
had been reduced to $10,000) and tacking the other $5,000 onto Sowell's
mortgage, thereby extending it. This, for a family already financially
distressed, was not a happy situation to contemplate.
Carl Sowell, a former customer relations representative, received
a severe electric shock on the job and has undergone seven back surgeries,
one stomach operation and two heart attacks. He can stand for only
10 minutes at a time.
His wife Teresa works; son Dion, 14, and daughter Latasha, 8, are
enrolled in Seaford schools.
Sowell, who remains optimistic, says, "I'm a man of God and have faith
that things will work out."
Sowell's faith was rewarded. On Jan. 7, when Habitat treasurer Norman
Westin called Hopkins' Kevin Pritchett, Pritchett offered to cut his
company's bill in half, giving everyone a break.
"We are enormously appreciative of Mr. Pritchett and Hopkins Construction
Company's willingness to do this ," said Westin.
"Essentially it means the Sowells' mortgage won't need to be extended
nor will their $250 monthly payments have to be increased. It's a
The Habitat for Humanity Women's Build dedication ceremony is scheduled
for Jan. 23 at 2 p.m. at the home on South Hall Street.
"Gov. Carper's wife won't be there, but she is sending a representative,"
said Elsassar. "Many of the Habitat for Humanity workers will be there."