First Bridget Gardner heard water rushing underneath her house. Then she noticed her windows cracking. Her doors stopped shutting right, and the sinkhole in her front lawn kept getting bigger.
On Monday, she heard her state representative announce that help is on the way.
Gardner (pictured) is one of a number of neighbors on Beverly Road in upper Westville’s Beverly Hills section who for years have been dealing with sinking and shifting homes. The very ground the houses are built on has been changing shape, causing walls to tilt and foundations to crack.
On Monday, state Rep. Pat Dillon and state Sen. Toni Harp—who’s running for mayor—announced that $1.5 million in state bonding is set to be deployed to help homeowners shore up their houses. The money will be administered by the Greater New Haven Community Loan Fund, which will assess homes and come up with a variety of fixes, depending on how the sinking ground has affected each house.
Dillon, Harp, and Gardner joined city officials and other neighbors in Gardner’s front lawn Monday afternoon for a press event announcing the fix.
“People were terrified” when the homes first started sinking about eight years ago, Dillon (pictured in pink) said. “It seemed like a science fiction movie. It was very frightening.”
Dillon said it was hard to find someone to pay attention to the problem, which didn’t neatly fall under the responsibility of the city, state or federal government. Dillon said people kept brushing off the problem until she took it to Sen. Harp: “She became our guardian angel.”
Harp helped to secure crucial study dollars for the project from the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering. She thanked everyone for having confidence and working together.
Gardner moved in to 31 Beverly Rd. in 2003. Shortly thereafter, she started hearing water running; it sounded like it was under the house. Was it the furnace? The toilet? Was she imagining it? “I’m the crazy lady who’s hearing water,” she said.
Then she noticed other oddities. If she spilled water, it wouldn’t pool, but run along the floor. Then, as the house settled and shifted, her windows started cracking and the doors didn’t fit in the door frames.
Dillon said a geological study found that the shifting was a result of the neighborhood resting on a water table. The movement appears to have stopped, she said. “The worst is probably over.”
Dillon said that 40 to 70 houses have been affected by the problem, five or 10 dramatically so.
Informational meetings will be held at 6 p.m. on Aug. 14 and 28 at Westville’s Mitchell library branch. Neighbors can sign up to have their homes assessed to see if they’re eligible for repair help.
“I’m supporting Toni Harp” for mayor, Dillon said after Monday’s press conference. She stressed that the event had nothing to do with the mayoral campaign. But she said Harp’s work on the sinking homes problem is an example of why she’s endorsing the senator for mayor.
When confronted by a problem, other elected officials start first with political calculations. But not Harp, Dillon said. “She never looked at it that way.” Harp wanted only to find a solution for people on Beverly Road, Dillon said.
“I’ve had a really good working relationship with Sen. Harp,” Dillon said.
Asked if she might pursue Harp’s vacant seat if the senator becomes mayor, Dillon said, “I haven’t even thought that far.”