Thursday, February 3, 2011

Mayor Lachmund Makes S**t hit Fan over Asylum Sewer

Just one week after the first go-round with Councilor Durbin, Mayor Lachmund had another. This time it's an argument over the Asylum sewer.

In 1911 about 20 years have passed since this photo was taken in the early 1890s. If the area near the Asylum wasn't exactly rural farmland any more, it was still very, very suburban. The photo appears to be taken from the very first Salem Hospital.

As far back as 1885, Governor Zenas Moody was calling for a sewer to service the Asylum:
I would respectfully urge upon you the necessity of construction a water main for the asylum to connect with the penitentiary pumps....The health of the inmates of the asylum, as well as the health and comfort of the residents of the neighborhood, urgently calls for the construction of a sewer to connect the asylum with main sewers of the City of Salem.
The City and State made some progress to this end, but for the moment we cannot say exactly how much. A 1905 statute references a Court Street sewer to the Asylum, but not one on Asylum Street (aka Center Street).

In 1911, the City let a contract, and Mayor Lachmund found himself in another squabble with Councilman Durbin. Graft seems likely, so it's hard to say who's in the right here. But it's certain that Mayor Lachmund is picking a fight and sh*t of all kinds is flowing.

Renewing hostilities, which were even more bitter in character than those displayed at a previous meeting, Mayor Lachmund and his lieutenant - Councilman Durbin - clashed last evening again at the meeting of the city council - clashed three times and clashed hard.

The first clash came when the mayor proceeded to put a motion made by Councilman Durbin, asking that a matter pertaining to the payment of a sewer contract be referred to the chairman of the sewer committee. "It has been moved and seconded," said the mayor, "that this matter be referred to the chairman of the sewer committee." Then he reached the word "chairman," he fairly shouted the word, and did so with a voice so full of sarcasm, and with such an ironical sneer on his face that it cut deep into Councilman Durbin's cuticle, and he winced perceptibly.

"I presume," he continued, after the motion was carried, "that Councilman Durbin, chairman of the sewer committee, will consult his colleagues upon the subject."

That was more than the councilman from the "silk stocking ward" could stand, and, groping in his mind for a fitting reply, he reiterated: I with consult with the bayor [sic] also."

The Second Clash

The second fight between the two came when Durbin opposed a resolution by Councilman Low, asking that the fire department be brought up to a higher degree of efficiency, and the third when the mayor arose from his seat on the floor, and, spreading out a lot of sewer maps, proceeded to exposed the inadequacy of a storm sewer being installed on Asylum avenue, and also proceedd [sic] to show that the attention of the sewer committee had been called to it. The story relating to the second clash appears elsewhere in this paper, and this story will deal with but the third and last fight of the evening, and here it is:

Sewer Inadequate

The storm sewer in question is being laid in Asylum avenue, and then runs across a stretch of territory until it empties into Mill creek. The mayor showed that 30-inch pipes were being laid, when, as a matter of fact, 50 or 60-inch pipes were needed to carry away the water. He also showed that the sewer was being laid along a water course, and that but a portion of the territory which the sewer traversed would be drained - that an immense tract would be left undrained, because of the contour of the land. If the work of laying down the sewer was allowed to proceed, he contested, the city would be compelled in a year or so to lay another pipe, and, to avoid the expense of this, he maintained, work should be stopped and the evil remedied.

Engineer Skelton was called upon and verified the mayor, and then Councilman Durbin took the floor to defend the committee, and the real fight of the evening broke loose.

A Contract is a Contract

Councilman Durbin, in making a defense of the sewer committee, stated that within three days after assuming his seat in the council, he was called upon to solve sewer problefs [sic]. Seeking legal advice upon the subject, he said, he was advised that, when a contract was once entered into by the city for improvement work it could not be changed without nullifying it. The sewer committee took the view, he stated, that the contract had been awarded by the council, and that it had no right to interfere with it, and that should it do so, it would cause it to become void. In view of this, he stated, the sewer committee had followed out the plan of hewing to the line to every contract entered into between the city and a contractor.

Bill Nye Argument

"Councilman Durbin is about one-eighth right on this question, and eight-eighths wrong," came back Mayor Lachmund.

"That is the way he is on all questions. His argument on this question, if expounded by Bill Nye, would cause people to laugh, because of the humor it contains. It is perfectly ridiculous to say that the terms of the contract cannot be changed, and, while I am perfectly willing to have the people of the city look at Durbin as being ridiculous, I want to clear my hide of it right now.

"There is a mistake in the contract in awarding this sewer. Suppose it is the fault of the previous engineer. We, because of that, should not follow it up, and make another mistake. I believe the engineer should fully investigate this subject and report his findings back at the next meeting, and that we should then set about and remedy the evil - it is simple and can easily be remedied.

Councilman Huckestein and Lafky voiced the same opinion, and then Durbin came to bat again, and a controversy ensued between he [sic] and the engineer, in which the latter stood his ground.

Durbin and the Engineer Quarrel

"If this storm sewer is inadequate, it took you the devil of a long time to find it out," shouted Councilman Durbin to the engineer, after he had paid his compliments to the mayor, and stated he was getting tired of all the "rag chewing."

"I notified you and the other members of the committee of the condition of the sewer three or four months ago," retorted the engineer, and for a second it halted the councilman's flow of language, and the two men stood facing each other looking each other squarely in the eyes.

"Did not you tell me that we might as well go ahead, and lay this sewer down," inquired Durbin.

"No, I did not tell you that," replied the engineer. "I told you that the sewer was inadequate, and that if it was laid down that in a year or so the city would have to put in another."

Several times he repeated the question to the engineer, and always the same answer was returned. Finally, abandoning further cros-questioning [sic], he again sought to justify his position with relation to the matter on the ground that the sewer committee had no right to change a contract. Its course was to follow out the terms of the contract, he maintained, "and if the contract said that a six-inch pipe should go in, it would have gone in, so far as the sewer committee was concerned."

What Would He Then Say

"Councilman Durbin's position is untenable," said Mayor Lachmund. "He is a hop dealer, and is accustomed to making contracts, and in making people live up to them - exacting his pound of flesh. I suppose even though he knew that a 60-inch pipe was necessary, and a six-inch pipe was called for, that he would put it in; he has said so, but I wonder what his attitude would be were he a property owner in the district to be drained. I have an idea that the terms of the contract would be more flexible, then."

That ended the fight. The motion was put directing the engineer to bring in a report on the subject, and also directing the contractor in the meantime to cease work.
It's not clear whether there was a difference between the pipes for a storm sewer and pipes for what we'd call a sanitary sewer. Do any readers know for sure?

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