Sink hole problem continues in Chester

CHESTER – Ten months after heavy rains flooded a private residence on Chester’s west side, the city is no closer to fixing the problem.

Chester City Council took up the issue again Monday when resident Cindy Harris, who lives at 18 Columbia Ave. with her husband, Don, complained about a lack of progress on repairs.

“I don’t understand how you cannot fix it,” Harris said.

The flooding from heavy rains on July 10, 2013, overwhelmed a city storm sewer under the Harrises’ home and left a three-foot sink hole in their backyard. The Harrises asked city council to repair the break in the line and the flooding damage, but city officials balked at the request, saying there was no proof the line was city-owned.

A subsequent finding by the city’s insurance company, Travelers Insurance, determined that the line is the city’s. Since then, city officials have tried to determine the best course of action for a project whose scope remains unclear.

Harris said a structural engineer sent by the insurance company recommended that the storm drain be moved to another area.

City officials believe diverting storm water away from the Harrises’ property and to the Ohio River will involve removing an underground 20-by-24-foot tank that serves as a gathering point for storm water from Fairview Road, First Street and elsewhere on the city’s west side.

Complicating matters is the fact that there are multiple property owners where the tank is located, at the intersection of First Street and Carolina Avenue. City Solicitor April Raines has been researching the property owners and is seeking easements so the work can be done.

Mayor Ken Morris told Harris he’s been trying to get help from the West Virginia Division of Highways but to no avail.

“It’s not going to happen overnight,” he said. “We’re going to have to get the state involved, and until I can get them up here to look at it, nothing’s going to be done.”

Morris said he has contacted Delegate Randy Swartzmiller, D-Hancock, and DOH District 6 design engineer Mark Edge about the issue.

Harris said the problem was exacerbated by recent dredging by the Holiday Yacht Club, a marina adjacent to their house.

“My fear is that our house is going to collapse,” she said.

In other business Monday, council accepted the resignation of Chester Park Board member Dennis Murray and park board Secretary Stephanie Murray, his wife.