Hank Investigates: Boston Repair Runaround

BOSTON (WHDH) - With its missing bricks and uneven surface, this sidewalk on Boston’s Necco Street was a tripping accident waiting to happen. Last June, Viviane Quill took a terrible fall here. She got a bruised knee, a dislocated finger and thousands of dollars in medical bills.

Viviane Quill: “It’s awful.”

She also reported the scary sidewalk to the City of Boston’s 311 system, her report says: “Missing bricks… I injured myself.”

Viviane: “It’s terrible.”

About six months later, on Dec. 1, the 311 website reported success: “Case resolved,” it says. “Missing bricks were replaced and additional bricks were reset.”

Except we went back to Necco Street, on what day, Siri?

Siri: “December 23, 2016.”

Right. That’s 3 weeks AFTER the 311 site said: “Missing bricks were replaced.” They weren’t.

Viviane: “It’s ridiculous.”

And we found this isn’t the only bewildering case in Boston’s 311 system. Our spot check of 22 broken sidewalk reports found nine other cases were marked as “fixed” or “made safe,” but nothing looked different from the original complaint photos.

This broken sidewalk at Florida and Mallet Street was listed “Resolved… all repairs appear to have been completed” last Dec. 29 at 8:27am. But when we checked later that same day, it wasn’t one bit different.

The complaint about the large area of broken sidewalk at Gloucester and Marlboro Street was reported, “Case closed… Location has been made safe” on Dec. 4, 2015.

We went back a year later and it’s unchanged, untouched.

This is Chris Osgood, Boston’s chief of sidewalks.

Hank: “The city’s website says these sidewalks are fixed and they’re not fixed. How can that be?”

Chris Osgood, City of Boston: “It is a little bit in the weeds and I apologize, it’s a little bit in the weeds.”

Osgood explained the Necco Street and Mallet Street cases were closed “inadvertently.”

But what about the others? The ones that said, “made safe?”

Osgood: “The made safe process is sort of the immediate inspection that happens…”
Hank: “So made safe doesn’t mean made safe? Made safe means someone looked at it?”
Osgood: “So made safe means somebody went there and if we could make a temporary repair we actually made that temporary repair.”

The sites we checked showed no evidence of any repair. And Osgood admits what you see on the 311 site is not necessarily accurate.

Hank: “Why is that?”
Osgood: “So, we certainly agree with you that there are ways in which we can improve the transparency of the work that we are doing.”

The city has now reopened the Florida and Mallet Street case. And look, they sent a four person crew to Necco Street and they took pictures to prove it’s now perfectly repaired.

The city says it’s redesigning the 311 website to give more accurate reporting on what’s been done. If you file a complaint be sure to include the exact address of the problem, a picture and your contact info.

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