Port Deposit to get aid for wall repairs

State offers $421,000

homes, town hall in peril

April 01, 2004|By Lane Harvey Brown | Lane Harvey Brown,SUN STAFF

The Cecil County town of Port Deposit is getting $421,000 from the state to help repair a retaining wall that began cracking significantly in February as a result of heavy rain, snow and cold, posing a threat to homes.

"It's wonderful. We really appreciate everyone pulling together," said Robert Flayhart, mayor of the Susquehanna River town of nearly 800.

Flayhart met yesterday with town and state administrators about the repairs, which engineers say could cost $1.3 million.

Brian LaFond, a town councilman who attended the meeting, said the group included representatives from the state Departments of Natural Resources and the Environment, and the offices of U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes and Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest.

"It looks very good that well have other funds," LaFond said.

The century-old retaining wall supports High Street, a steep, dead-end road where a handful of homes perch over Main Streets shops, frame houses and town offices. Most of the street is closed.

"We have people up on High Street who were born in these houses they live in. Its a lot of stress to think they could be lost," LaFond said.

About 16 houses are threatened, local officials say, along with Town Hall, which is housed in a school gymnasium built more than a century ago.

"If not properly stabilized, the retaining wall in Port Deposit could become a very dangerous situation," Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. said in a statement. "My administration is committed to acting promptly when there is a need and avoid the red tape usually associated with projects like this."

The money will come from the state Departments of Housing and Community Development and Business and Economic Development, according to state officials.

Flayhart said he hopes repairs can begin in about 30 days, allowing time to receive the money and hold a public meeting to discuss how the project will proceed in phases.

He said engineers have identified a bowing section of the wall behind Town Hall as the first area to shore up.

"We're concerned about it," said Chris Abrams, a Waterwitch Fire Company volunteer whose family lives in a house across from the bowing wall. "But we've kind of accepted it and moved on."

Record rainfall, Tropical Storm Isabel, snow and weeks of unusual cold caused water pressure behind the wall to build up and create cracks in the road and wall, Flayhart said.

He stood on Main Street outside Town Hall yesterday and pointed up the hill to new cracks that have formed in the wall. After the last heavy rains, he said, the wall moved another three- quarters of an inch.

The spring rainy season likely promises more of the same, said Bill Eldred, the towns community development director.

"With all due respect to farmers, we're praying for a dry spring," he said.

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