WILLIAMSON – A huge sinkhole, a mudslide and other drainage problems plaguing the city of Williamson were the topics at an emergency meeting of the City Council on Wednesday afternoon.
The threat of these problems worsening for property owners was discussed and possible solutions were presented by city leaders.
An old corrugated drainage pipe that runs under the street and underneath lawns of private property owners that carries a stream down Vinson Street (Williamson Hollow) was one of the biggest concerns. Much of that pipe, which was installed several years ago, has rusted and clogged up. The huge 10-foot sinkhole appeared in a yard at the old Turner home and is moving toward the driveway and carport of Walt and Mable Childress.
Officials agreed that the situation could worsen and that a civil engineer needed to be brought in to examine the problem and offer long-term solutions.
Jason Allen of Veolia said the drain was a 48 inch pipe and part of it collapsed on Sunday after heavy rains fell in the area and then street department workers unclogged part of the drainage line and removed part of it from the sinkhole (see photo).
Councilman York Smith talked about the issue being a longtime problem from back when he served on the city council several years ago. Councilwoman Sherri Hairston-Brown, who serves as councilwoman for this Ward, agreed that this has been an ongoing problem.
Allen said he had a rough estimate of getting replacement pipe, which is $9,880, but officials believe that the job will cost much more than that. “I’m sure once you get into the job it will be more than anticipated. You could run into more problems,” said Councilman Smith.
Mayor Robert Carlton said that the city needs to get the City Attorney (Josh Ferrell) involved because the drain runs under private property and there are easement issues.
Councilwoman Judy Hamrick asked if an engineer had looked at the problem. “It needs to be done right,” she added. It was also suggested that the Army Corps of Engineers be contacted to see if they could offer assistance.
Allen said that it is always good to get a second and third opinion with this type of job. It was noted that the damage involves homeowners’ fences, driveways and personal property.
Mable Childress, who is a lifelong resident of Vinson Street, spoke to City Council for her neighborhood. Her property is greatly affected by the sinkhole and drainage problems. “Something has to be done,” Childress stated.
City Clerk Larry Brown said he had contacted the city’s insurance company to see if there are any funds available to help with the cost of the complicated repair project.
WFD Fire Chief Joey Carey said firefighters were at the scene Sunday due to the flooding on Vinson Street. “If another big rain comes, the storm drain may not hold the water. We’ll try to keep it clear. I agree that an engineer needs to be brought in. The entire drain needs to be replaced.”
Carey said he would continue to monitor the situation.
“We need to insure the area is secure,” Carlton stressed. “We need to check with our insurance company before we can make a final decision.” Caution tape that was put up by the Williamson Fire Department had the sinkhole roped off after the flooding occurred on Sunday.
“The job needs to be done right,” Councilman Smith said. “It’s not the city’s fault – but it is the city’s business.”
“We need to do the right thing,” Councilwoman Hamrick added.
After the discussion on the Vinson Street flooding and drainage problems, the council turned their efforts toward a mudslide that had already damaged a house on Goodman Avenue and was threatening to cause more harm to the structure. Charlene Tincher, a recent widow, lives in the East End home.
Mayor Carlton said he visited that site on Wednesday and talked to the property owner. While the meeting was being held, two employees from the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) – the abandoned mine division, who had come to Williamson to investigate the situation, spoke to the city council. Jason Foster of the DEP said “it is not mining related.”
Foster said the DEP “could not be of any assistance” to the city of Williamson on the mudslide. He said the slide was caused by “natural drainage and surface water” that runs next to the house.
Carlton said that the slide could continue and push the house off its foundation. The mudslide has already taken out a deck connected to the home and part of Tincher’s landscaping.
Another home owner, Norma White, who lives at the top of Prichard Street in Williamson, told the City Council about a drainage problem on that street. Jason Allen said he was aware of that problem, but it was thought that the drains in question are on private property and could belong to the home owner.
White said this problem, which affects her property, has existed for a while. She said it has gotten worse in the last year.
The City Council agreed that action needs to be taken once expert opinions can be obtained and funding can be acquired to alleviate the problems, especially on Vinson Street.
In the meantime, those who live in the effected properties are praying that no more heavy rains hit the area until the problems can be corrected and repaired.
(Kyle Lovern is the Editor for the Williamson Daily News. He can be contacted at [email protected] or at 304-235-4242, ext. 2277 or on Twitter @KyleLovern.)