Saturday, January 19, 2008

Sinkhole - USA (Maryland) JAN

It's been three years since the first sinkhole formed in front of the Annapolis Glenwood high-rise and a solution still seems out of reach.

With a nearly $2 million price tag on the fix for the original - and still growing - sinkhole, and now another one, officials at the Annapolis Housing Authority are asking for help anywhere they can, especially after the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development turned down previous funding requests.

Since the first sinkhole formed three years ago, the housing authority has spent more than $200,000 on repairs and stabilization. Another sinkhole appeared in November.

And now, Eric Brown, executive director for the housing authority, says he doesn't know what options he has left.

Mr. Brown told members of the RESPECT group at a Jan. 3 meeting the issue of the sinkhole would be addressed this year, but he's still unsure how.

Representatives from HUD's Baltimore office visited the Glenwood site Dec. 12 with Mr. Brown and ultimately determined the housing authority should reach out to local government for financial assistance in fixing the hole.

"Our next plan is to apply to HUD for emergency funding," Mr. Brown said. "I don't know whether we will get that or not, but it's one of the many avenues we've been pursuing."

"As a very last resort, we may have to try to find some other means of doing it," Mr. Brown said. "And I don't know what that is, despite very deep and severe cuts to agency personnel and I don't want to go down that road."

Last year, the housing authority asked the city for $600,000 only to be turned down.

A letter to the housing authority dated Aug. 23, 2007 from Mayor Ellen O. Moyer called the request "a major unbudgeted capital program."

Bob Agee, city administrator and acting director of Public Works, said city employees went out to the Glenwood site last summer to see if there was a way prevent the sinkhole from growing and what was causing it.

They left without an answer to either question.

"It keeps happening over and over and will keep happening because it's a cause that hasn't been addressed," Mr. Agee said of the sinkhole.

One long-time resident of Glenwood, who asked to not be named, said the residents weren't very happy and didn't expect to see a resolution to the problem coming anytime soon - mainly because of the large price tag.

"It's been this way for quite a long while," she said. "Several firms have come over and given estimates, but each time the price seems to go up."

Mr. Brown is now asking local public officials, including city leaders and U.S. Rep. John P. Sarbanes, to provide letters of support to HUD, asking for $1.2 million in emergency funding support.

Mr. Sarbanes wrote to HUD Jan. 11, requesting a meeting with the agency at Glenwood and asking them to provide the funding needed.

"I urge the department to provide the Annapolis Housing Authority with HUD emergency capital funds which are explicitly reserved for 'emergencies and natural disasters' like this situation," he wrote. "The housing authority's total annual budget represents merely one-third of the total cost for repair of the sinkhole. Without these additional funds, the sinkhole may continue to deteriorate and present significant risk to residents of the Glenwood Apartments."

Maria Bynum, a spokesman for HUD, said they have yet to respond to Mr. Sarbanes inquiry, but would be arranging a follow-up soon.

The housing authority currently has about $600,000 already put aside for the sinkhole. Mr. Brown said that amount paired with the $1.2 million they are asking for should be enough to fix the problems, even though previous estimates on fixing the hole ranged from $1.1 to $2.6 million.

"It's my hope that there will be a quick turnaround on this, but meanwhile we're looking for other (funding) sources as well," he said.

City officials say they don't mean to turn a blind eye on the residents of Glenwood, but it's just not something they budgeted for.

"We know it costs money, but the city is not contributing to the problem and we just couldn't justify spending city taxpayer money," Mr. Agee said. "We'd be happy to be part of the solution if there's a role for us. We've tried to be of assistance down the line." - Source

1 comment:

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