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Sinkhole help lost

A Pulaski woman threatened Tuesday to fill a collapsing culvert on her property with cement after Pulaski Town Council declined to take action on her request for assistance with its repair.
“I’ll fill it full of cement and you can run your (storm) water somewhere else. I don’t want it on my property anyway,” Donna Bobbitt told council before walking out of council chambers.
She said the “sinkhole” in her yard is now only 20 inches from the front porch of the Fourth Street home she purchased last fall. Two weeks ago, she said it was 31 inches away.
Councilman Morgan Welker made a motion Tuesday to have town staff pursue the purchase of a strip of land containing the culvert system so the town could “construct proper drainage.” However, the motion died for lack of a second.
With no other motions offered, no action was taken on the situation.
Town Attorney David Warburton told council at its last work session that he absolutely can’t allow the town to spend taxpayer money to make repairs on private property.
According to earlier discussion on the situation, the 1930s property owner constructed a three-foot-square box culvert made of brick and mortar so that he could fill in an area of natural drainage and construct two houses. The town allowed the culvert to be connected to the town’s drains under the condition it be held harmless of any problems ever resulting from the property owner’s project.
Before Welker’s motion, Councilman H. M. Kidd questioned whether Bobbitt and her neighbor, John Saul, could give the town enough property to fix the situation.
In response, Councilman Larry Clevinger warned council it better be ready for a lot of people to come before the town offering to give or sell property in order for the town to foot the bill for repairs.
According to estimates provided by a local engineer, Town Manager John Hawley said, engineering costs alone on the Fourth Street project could be $16,000 to $20,000. That figure doesn’t include any construction costs.
Welker said he thinks the town could do the work for a lot less if the property was deeded to the town.
“Unless someone can convince me (the storm drainage problem) will effect only these two property owners, I think it’s in the public interest for use to fix it,” Welker said. He said Peak Creek is privately owned, but the town would fix it if it were obstructed.”
Welker said he thinks the water would back up enough to affect a number of properties with flooding basements and water standing in streets if Bobbitt and Saul choose to fill in the drainage system. “It could cost us a whole lot more to fix it later if we let it go.
“I don’t see how we can sit here and say it’s not our problem,” Welker added.
Hawley said it is his understanding that a private individual cannot block a natural drainage area. He said he thinks Bobbitt and Saul have to make improvements to address the drainage issue.
Worrell acknowledged the town might realize some savings in doing the project itself, but he said there is still gong to be a “tremendous amount” of expense in the project.
“They’re caught in a dreadful situation that’s not their making,” the mayor continued. He said he feels badly for Bobbitt and Saul, but he doesn’t see how council can justify taking on the “tremendous amount” of expense the project will cost and spreading it upon the town taxpayers when the town didn’t create the problem.
Welker asked what recourse Bobbitt and Saul will have if the town doesn’t do anything.
Both Bobbitt and Saul have said they can’t afford the necessary repairs.
“I’m more worried about what the (public) response would be if we do this,” Worrell said. “The only way we can do this is if we’re willing to fix every situation on private property in town; and this isn’t the only place in town with a similar problem”
Hawley said there was a similar problem on Pierce Avenue a few years ago where a warehouse floor collapsed. He said that was on private property and the town didn’t get involved in repairing the situation.
He added that he doesn’t think other properties in the vicinity of Bobbitt’s would be impacted if the drain isn’t fixed.
Welker said he doesn’t think the 1930s developer would have installed the drain if it weren’t needed.
Nonetheless, Warburton reminded council it can’t spend taxpayer money on property it doesn’t own – even for a study.”
He said the town made the issue a private one in 1930 when the town attorney at that time did a good job of protecting the town from problems that could arise from the property owner’s storm water plan.
He suggested it would be a bad decision for the town to “yoke itself” with a situation property owners have not tried to correct, but have allowed to get worse.
“You can’t debate spending (taxpayer money) on private property,” Warburton told council members. “You can debate buying the property.”
When council took no action and moved on to the next agenda item, Bobbitt stood up and said, “So, you’re saying you’re not willing to help someone who doesn’t have the money to fix it?”
She said she doesn’t understand why they won’t help her because “you help everybody else with roads and stuff.”
Worrell told Bobbitt he sympathizes with her, saying “you’re just a victim of circumstances.”
Bobbitt asked council what they would do in her position.
Worrell said he can’t honestly say what he would do.
“I’m dreadfully sorry for your position, but the town is not in a position to help you.”
The only way the Town of Pulaski can legally foot the bill to repair a collapsing culvert is to purchase the strip of land that contains the pipe, the town’s legal counsel said Tuesday night.
“It’s not that we don’t want to (fix the problem),” town attorney David Warburton told two homeowners on Fourth Street during the town’s monthly work session. “We can’t do it on private property. I can’t let Town Council vote to spend town money or resources on private land.”
Although John Saul offered to give the town an easement across his property to fix the problem, Warburton said he doesn’t think an easement alone will be sufficient.
The problems began when a three-foot-square box culvert made of brick and mortar started to collapse under the properties of Saul and Donna Bobbitt. Town Manager John Hawley says 1930 town council minutes show the property owner installed the culvert so that a natural drainage ditch could be filled to make the lot suitable for construction of the two houses. He said the town agreed to allow the culvert to be connected to its storm water system, but required that it not be held liable for damages caused as a result of the property owner’s culvert.
Citing a report from the Virginia Department of Conservation, Bobbitt said she thinks the town is 90 percent responsible for her house being threatened by the hole because the culvert collapsed as the result of a sediment blockage in a town drainage pipe under Fourth Street.
However, Mayor Jeff Worrell said at the beginning of the discussion that the sediment blockage resulted from a large release of soil when the culvert collapsed, not vice versa. He said the solution to the problem is for the owners to relocate the water flow so that it doesn’t pass under the corner of Bobbitt’s porch and replace it with new pipe.
Councilman Morgan Welker asked if it is feasible to line the collapsing culvert with plastic pipe and then fill it with dirt and rocks so that water doesn’t pass through it anymore. He said he is worried that if the collapse continues it will affect other properties.
“It may not be our fault or responsibility, but we could have a heap of trouble in the whole neighborhood if something isn’t done,” he said. “If something doesn’t get done, it could affect a lot of people.”
Town Engineer Bill Pedigo agreed that the culvert is going to continue to collapse if it isn’t fixed. He said that could cause water to back up into a field along Fifth Street during heavy run-off.
Saul said he was told that the drain handles 50 to 55 acres of runoff “and that’s a lot of water.” He said the estimate he received for having the culvert repaired is more than $70,000. He said that while he understands Warburton’s position that the town doesn’t want to set a precedent by making a repair on private property, he doesn’t have “$35,000 laying around” to cover half the repair costs.
He added that tacking the cost of repairs onto his mortgage would leave him “stuck” with a $110,000 house because “this neighborhood isn’t going to support” selling the house for that much.
Warburton said the issue is more than setting a precedent or the fact the 1930 agreement releases the town from responsibility for problems arising from the culvert. He reiterated that the town simply cannot spend taxpayer dollars on private property.
On the other hand, he noted that Saul and Bobbitt also don’t have any obligation to retain the drainage ditch. As long as it is disconnected from the town system, he said they can fill it in. “I don’t know what that would do to the drainage in the area,” he added.
Councilman Robert Bopp said he doesn’t understand why estimates for repair are so high.
Saul said the estimate calls for replacing the old culvert with 150 feet of concrete-reinforced pipe.
Welker said he thinks it would be “very irresponsible” to that neighborhood for the town not to do something about the problem, given the amount of water the drain is carrying during storms. He said he thinks repairs could be done “for a whole lot less” if plastic pipe were used and the work was done “in house.”
Hawley said an engineering firm would need to be hired to determine what would be needed to adequately handle the storm water flow. He said he fears the town could have some liability if the solution doesn’t adequately handle the runoff.
Bopp said he thinks the only workable solution is for the town to be deeded ownership of the strip of land and for the town to find out “what is the cheapest thing that will work” to fix the issue.
In the end, council decided to have staff obtain estimates of the cost for an engineering study on the situation.
Worrell warned council that some kind of action would have to be taken at council’s Feb. 2 meeting because the situation keeps worsening. He said council is certainly sympathetic with Bobbitt, who told council she is worried about losing her house due to the sinkhole’s encroachment on the structure. It was 54 inches from her front porch and is now 31 inches, she added.
“I can’t keep losing my yard. It falls in every time it rains, snows or sleets,” she said.
She said she wasn’t “even born yet” when the 1930s agreement was made and now the town is “holding someone else’s minutes over my head.
“I would appreciate your help,” Bobbitt said.
Hawley noted that the 1930 minutes were found when town staff was doing an easement search.
Warburton said the situation should have been revealed during a title search when the properties were sold.
Saul said for some reason the title searches didn’t uncover the fact the culvert passed under their properties.

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Sinkhole help lost

A Pulaski woman threatened Tuesday to fill a collapsing culvert on her property with cement after Pulaski Town Council declined to take action on her request for assistance with its repair.
“I’ll fill it full of cement and you can run your (storm) water somewhere else. I don’t want it on my property anyway,” Donna Bobbitt told council before walking out of council chambers.
She said the “sinkhole” in her yard is now only 20 inches from the front porch of the Fourth Street home she purchased last fall. Two weeks ago, she said it was 31 inches away.
Councilman Morgan Welker made a motion Tuesday to have town staff pursue the purchase of a strip of land containing the culvert system so the town could “construct proper drainage.” However, the motion died for lack of a second.
With no other motions offered, no action was taken on the situation.
Town Attorney David Warburton told council at its last work session that he absolutely can’t allow the town to spend taxpayer money to make repairs on private property.
According to earlier discussion on the situation, the 1930s property owner constructed a three-foot-square box culvert made of brick and mortar so that he could fill in an area of natural drainage and construct two houses. The town allowed the culvert to be connected to the town’s drains under the condition it be held harmless of any problems ever resulting from the property owner’s project.
Before Welker’s motion, Councilman H. M. Kidd questioned whether Bobbitt and her neighbor, John Saul, could give the town enough property to fix the situation.
In response, Councilman Larry Clevinger warned council it better be ready for a lot of people to come before the town offering to give or sell property in order for the town to foot the bill for repairs.
According to estimates provided by a local engineer, Town Manager John Hawley said, engineering costs alone on the Fourth Street project could be $16,000 to $20,000. That figure doesn’t include any construction costs.
Welker said he thinks the town could do the work for a lot less if the property was deeded to the town.
“Unless someone can convince me (the storm drainage problem) will effect only these two property owners, I think it’s in the public interest for use to fix it,” Welker said. He said Peak Creek is privately owned, but the town would fix it if it were obstructed.”
Welker said he thinks the water would back up enough to affect a number of properties with flooding basements and water standing in streets if Bobbitt and Saul choose to fill in the drainage system. “It could cost us a whole lot more to fix it later if we let it go.
“I don’t see how we can sit here and say it’s not our problem,” Welker added.
Hawley said it is his understanding that a private individual cannot block a natural drainage area. He said he thinks Bobbitt and Saul have to make improvements to address the drainage issue.
Worrell acknowledged the town might realize some savings in doing the project itself, but he said there is still gong to be a “tremendous amount” of expense in the project.
“They’re caught in a dreadful situation that’s not their making,” the mayor continued. He said he feels badly for Bobbitt and Saul, but he doesn’t see how council can justify taking on the “tremendous amount” of expense the project will cost and spreading it upon the town taxpayers when the town didn’t create the problem.
Welker asked what recourse Bobbitt and Saul will have if the town doesn’t do anything.
Both Bobbitt and Saul have said they can’t afford the necessary repairs.
“I’m more worried about what the (public) response would be if we do this,” Worrell said. “The only way we can do this is if we’re willing to fix every situation on private property in town; and this isn’t the only place in town with a similar problem”
Hawley said there was a similar problem on Pierce Avenue a few years ago where a warehouse floor collapsed. He said that was on private property and the town didn’t get involved in repairing the situation.
He added that he doesn’t think other properties in the vicinity of Bobbitt’s would be impacted if the drain isn’t fixed.
Welker said he doesn’t think the 1930s developer would have installed the drain if it weren’t needed.
Nonetheless, Warburton reminded council it can’t spend taxpayer money on property it doesn’t own – even for a study.”
He said the town made the issue a private one in 1930 when the town attorney at that time did a good job of protecting the town from problems that could arise from the property owner’s storm water plan.
He suggested it would be a bad decision for the town to “yoke itself” with a situation property owners have not tried to correct, but have allowed to get worse.
“You can’t debate spending (taxpayer money) on private property,” Warburton told council members. “You can debate buying the property.”
When council took no action and moved on to the next agenda item, Bobbitt stood up and said, “So, you’re saying you’re not willing to help someone who doesn’t have the money to fix it?”
She said she doesn’t understand why they won’t help her because “you help everybody else with roads and stuff.”
Worrell told Bobbitt he sympathizes with her, saying “you’re just a victim of circumstances.”
Bobbitt asked council what they would do in her position.
Worrell said he can’t honestly say what he would do.
“I’m dreadfully sorry for your position, but the town is not in a position to help you.”
The only way the Town of Pulaski can legally foot the bill to repair a collapsing culvert is to purchase the strip of land that contains the pipe, the town’s legal counsel said Tuesday night.
“It’s not that we don’t want to (fix the problem),” town attorney David Warburton told two homeowners on Fourth Street during the town’s monthly work session. “We can’t do it on private property. I can’t let Town Council vote to spend town money or resources on private land.”
Although John Saul offered to give the town an easement across his property to fix the problem, Warburton said he doesn’t think an easement alone will be sufficient.
The problems began when a three-foot-square box culvert made of brick and mortar started to collapse under the properties of Saul and Donna Bobbitt. Town Manager John Hawley says 1930 town council minutes show the property owner installed the culvert so that a natural drainage ditch could be filled to make the lot suitable for construction of the two houses. He said the town agreed to allow the culvert to be connected to its storm water system, but required that it not be held liable for damages caused as a result of the property owner’s culvert.
Citing a report from the Virginia Department of Conservation, Bobbitt said she thinks the town is 90 percent responsible for her house being threatened by the hole because the culvert collapsed as the result of a sediment blockage in a town drainage pipe under Fourth Street.
However, Mayor Jeff Worrell said at the beginning of the discussion that the sediment blockage resulted from a large release of soil when the culvert collapsed, not vice versa. He said the solution to the problem is for the owners to relocate the water flow so that it doesn’t pass under the corner of Bobbitt’s porch and replace it with new pipe.
Councilman Morgan Welker asked if it is feasible to line the collapsing culvert with plastic pipe and then fill it with dirt and rocks so that water doesn’t pass through it anymore. He said he is worried that if the collapse continues it will affect other properties.
“It may not be our fault or responsibility, but we could have a heap of trouble in the whole neighborhood if something isn’t done,” he said. “If something doesn’t get done, it could affect a lot of people.”
Town Engineer Bill Pedigo agreed that the culvert is going to continue to collapse if it isn’t fixed. He said that could cause water to back up into a field along Fifth Street during heavy run-off.
Saul said he was told that the drain handles 50 to 55 acres of runoff “and that’s a lot of water.” He said the estimate he received for having the culvert repaired is more than $70,000. He said that while he understands Warburton’s position that the town doesn’t want to set a precedent by making a repair on private property, he doesn’t have “$35,000 laying around” to cover half the repair costs.
He added that tacking the cost of repairs onto his mortgage would leave him “stuck” with a $110,000 house because “this neighborhood isn’t going to support” selling the house for that much.
Warburton said the issue is more than setting a precedent or the fact the 1930 agreement releases the town from responsibility for problems arising from the culvert. He reiterated that the town simply cannot spend taxpayer dollars on private property.
On the other hand, he noted that Saul and Bobbitt also don’t have any obligation to retain the drainage ditch. As long as it is disconnected from the town system, he said they can fill it in. “I don’t know what that would do to the drainage in the area,” he added.
Councilman Robert Bopp said he doesn’t understand why estimates for repair are so high.
Saul said the estimate calls for replacing the old culvert with 150 feet of concrete-reinforced pipe.
Welker said he thinks it would be “very irresponsible” to that neighborhood for the town not to do something about the problem, given the amount of water the drain is carrying during storms. He said he thinks repairs could be done “for a whole lot less” if plastic pipe were used and the work was done “in house.”
Hawley said an engineering firm would need to be hired to determine what would be needed to adequately handle the storm water flow. He said he fears the town could have some liability if the solution doesn’t adequately handle the runoff.
Bopp said he thinks the only workable solution is for the town to be deeded ownership of the strip of land and for the town to find out “what is the cheapest thing that will work” to fix the issue.
In the end, council decided to have staff obtain estimates of the cost for an engineering study on the situation.
Worrell warned council that some kind of action would have to be taken at council’s Feb. 2 meeting because the situation keeps worsening. He said council is certainly sympathetic with Bobbitt, who told council she is worried about losing her house due to the sinkhole’s encroachment on the structure. It was 54 inches from her front porch and is now 31 inches, she added.
“I can’t keep losing my yard. It falls in every time it rains, snows or sleets,” she said.
She said she wasn’t “even born yet” when the 1930s agreement was made and now the town is “holding someone else’s minutes over my head.
“I would appreciate your help,” Bobbitt said.
Hawley noted that the 1930 minutes were found when town staff was doing an easement search.
Warburton said the situation should have been revealed during a title search when the properties were sold.
Saul said for some reason the title searches didn’t uncover the fact the culvert passed under their properties.

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