House threatened by crumbling wall Homeowner pleads for help in vain

November 18, 1993|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

A crumbling concrete retaining wall is threatening the house where a 75-year-old woman has lived for nearly 50 years.

Gladys Green is asking Sykesville to repair the wall before it falls into her Oklahoma Road home.

"The wall is cracked all the way across," she said. "It could crumble and fall right into my front door."

As far back as Mrs. Green can remember, a retaining wall has prevented a short, steep hill and the road from tumbling into her two-story house.

Nothing protects the dwelling from the traffic that winds north along a narrow stretch of road and often tosses stones at her screened porch.

Two years ago, a storm and an uprooted tree badly damaged the wall. Now the crumbling structure not only offers no protection, but it poses a threat to the homeowner's safety.

After the storm, Mrs. Green, who has lived alone since her husband died, repeatedly asked the town to repair the wall.

"They have had money for everything else, but they have done no justice by me," she said. "Right now it is a disgrace."

The town put the job out to bid in September. Officials went into sticker shock when they opened three contractors' estimates, which ranged from $34,500 to $36,000.

"They must be thinking of the Great Wall of China," said Councilman Eugene Johnson.

With about $4,500 in the public works budget for the repair work, the council rejected all bids, changing the plans and calling for a block wall and a metal guardrail in front of the house.

That is a stopgap measure at best, said Town Manager James L. Schumacher. He has two bids for the scaled-down work, both under $5,000. He said he expected to decide on those bids today and that work could begin immediately thereafter.

"The repairs are more for aesthetics than for structure," he said.

The contractor also will have to remove two mature trees whose roots are undermining the wall.

Mr. Schumacher said several neighbors had volunteered their time and labor to help Mrs. Green.

The town's responsibility for the costs lies "in a gray area," he PTC said.

"We have no deed of ownership, but it is in the public's benefit for us to fix this," he said. "If it is not repaired, it will cause drainage problems and, eventually, the town would be called in."

Regardless of what repairs the town makes, Mr. Schumacher said, he questions the practicality of "putting dollars into the side of a hill which is slowly crumbling."

Several new developments will increase the traffic on Oklahoma Road. The narrow road also is scheduled for widening over the next several years.

"If we fix it now, we could face the same problem in four years," said Mayor Kenneth W. Clark. "We are fighting the forces of nature in a constant battle with a steep hill and erosion."

Mr. Clark said he wants to review all of the town's options.

"It may make more sense financially to move the owner than to pay thousands to repair the situation," he said.

Mrs. Green said she plans to stay put, but behind a sturdy wall.

"I would like the wall repaired before the snow falls," she said.

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