Lititz to Repair, Reopen W. Second Ave.

By on July 18, 2018

Three-phase sinkhole repair will take six to eight days; work could begin next week

By Laura Knowles and Patrick Burns

More than two dozen residents of nearby Moravian Manor attended a recent Lititz Borough Council meeting to voice their complaints about the detour that has been in place since shortly after a sinkhole opened on the 500 block of West Second Avenue in March. Photo by Laura Knowles

More than two dozen residents of nearby Moravian Manor attended a recent Lititz Borough Council meeting to voice their complaints about the detour that has been in place since shortly after a sinkhole opened on the 500 block of West Second Avenue in March. Photo by Laura Knowles

The damaged 500 block of West Second Avenue may soon be repaired and reopened to traffic.

Lititz Borough Council has hammered out an arrangement with the homeowners whose property was damaged — along with a chuck of West Second Avenue — by a sinkhole that has closed off traffic on the road for four months.

The closure has caused much frustration, most notably to residents of the Moravian Manor retirement community, who have questioned why borough officials have not moved quickly to repair the street in front of David and Amy Gerhart’s home at 530 W. Second Ave.

Lititz Borough Council directed its attorney Michael Davis, of Barley Snyder, to send a letter on July 11, explaining that it has developed a remediation strategy using pressurized injections of grout into the subsurface to fill the void only to the borough’s street.

However, while the priority is to repair and reopen the street to traffic, engineers believe it could also repair some damage to the Gerhart’s home.

That sinkhole appears to be partially filled but dips deeply onto the Gerhart’s property and sinks within the driveway near the home where deep pockets have formed.

“While the intent of the remedy is to address only the borough’s street right-of-way, the grouting will tend to flow into wherever there is a connected subsurface void,” Davis wrote in the July 11 letter.

Borough officials have not spoken publicly since early May about the legal dispute the sinkhole created when the Gerhart’s attorney urged the borough to take responsibility for the sinkhole and pay to repair the damage to 530 W. Second Ave.

The borough on March 29 filled sinkholes on the Gerhart’s property with “flowable fill” to stop the expansion of the sinkholes and the underground activity.

David Gerhart on Tuesday indictaed he agreed to allow the borough to set up monitoring devices on his property — as required during the pressurized grouting injections — but that’s likely not the end of the story.

“Yes, this fix is primarily for the road repair,” Gerhart said Monday. “We’ll still have to compel them to repair our property. We’re probably still looking at some sort or lawsuit or trial for that to happen since they still refuse to accept any liability.”

The three-phase system will take a total of six to eight days and work could begin as soon as July 25.

David Gerhart is cautiously optimistic that the grouting plan fixes some of the serious sinkhole issue on his property.

Lititz Borough Manager Sue Barry and Elijah Yearick, director of planning and community development, did not respond for a comment.

At the May 29 Lititz Borough Council meeting, council president Shane Weaver noted that the borough has been meeting with insurance companies, attorneys, geologists, contractors and others to get the sinkhole issue resolved.

More than two dozen residents of nearby Moravian Manor attended that meeting to voice their complaints about the detour that has been in place shortly after a sinkhole opened on West Second Avenue March 17.

That sinkhole was the third in a series of sinkholes and water line breaks since January 2016 — and the second since the Gerharts purchased the property.

“Clearly there was something catastrophic going on (underground),” Gerhart said in May.

The previous sinkholes occurred Nov. 29, only two months after the couple purchased the home. The borough, which acknowledged responsibility for that water main break in the street, immediately closed the 500 block of West Second Avenue, shut off water to homes in the area, set up a traffic detour, then dug up the street, and attempted to repair the break in the street.

A borough dump truck, loaded with debris from the repair, collapsed into a sinkhole that suddenly opened in the street. Gerhart said photos taken that day show the beginnings of sinkholes on his property, marked off by traffic cones. He said the damaged earth caused him to replace his sewer line.

While those sinkholes presented a close call, it wasn’t the first one on the 500 block of West Second Avenue. On Jan. 26 2016, the borough repaired a sinkhole in the street after a 19-year-old fell through snow inside a hole while taking trash to the curb, according to a story in LNP. The 19-year-old, who is the son of the previous homeowner of the 530 W. Second Ave. property, did not sustain any injuries after falling onto the sinkhole, according to borough police.

Gerhart believes the pressurized grouting technique is probably the best way to repair the sinkholes. Though it is a sensitive process, he welcomes the monitoring system on his property.

“My understanding of the monitoring is that the pressurized grout is a delicate process,” he said. “They want to be sure they are using enough pressure to fill the voids but not so much that they damage our basement walls.”

Still, the process will leave Gerhart with work to do on his own property which the borough has not taken responsibility for. The borough is moving forward with the repairs despite learning its insurance company denied its first-party claim for coverage.

Davis’ letter states the borough wants to assure the safety of the Gerhart family and to avoid any possible negative impact on the structural integrity of their home.

“Consequently, in an abundance of caution, the borough will, at it’s sole cost and expense, direct its contractor to utilize a monitoring system along the common boundary of the Gerhart property and the borough right-of-way and on the Gerhart property as well…,” the letter states.

Patrick Burns is news editor for the Lititz Record Express. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at pburns.eph@lnpnews.com or at (717) 721-4455.

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