Port Deposit to seek bids to mend wall

Repairs estimated to cost $750,000 to $1.3 million

work could begin in fall

Residents anticipating a solution

August 08, 2004|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

PORT DEPOSIT - Town officials expect to ask for bids next week from construction companies willing to repair a century-old retaining wall behind homes along Main Street that has threatened to fall since early February.

If everything goes well, the repair work could begin in late October or early November, said Bill Eldred, director of economic development for the town on the banks of the Susquehanna River.

The process has been delayed, Eldred said, as town officials waited for an engineering company to complete the survey work necessary before they could seek construction bids.

He said the surveys were needed so the town could obtain easements to the property where the repairs will take place.

The wall climbs up the hill from the back yards of homes on Main Street. The wall is property of the homeowners, Eldred said.

Town officials have been meeting with the homeowners, who are expected to donate the easements, Eldred said.

The easements are necessary to use federal money to help pay for the repairs, he said.

"It's a huge maintenance nightmare. I will be relieved and gratified" when the work is completed, Eldred said.

He said residents living on High Street, which is supported by the retaining wall, are eager for repairs to begin.

For six months, Deputy Mayor Kerry Anne Abrams has carried her groceries nearly a quarter-mile from the Town Hall parking lot on Main Street to her home on High Street.

High Street has been closed to vehicle traffic since February, when the wall first showed signs of bulging. Holes also opened in the street in front of homes.

Engineers feared that traffic would add additional pressure to the wall, which had already moved about 18 inches from its original vertical position.

In May, construction workers removed the top 7 feet of a 30-foot section of the wall - a portion weighing 3 tons to 4 tons - that presented the greatest danger of falling.

The danger still exists.

Eldred said measurements taken after heavy rains flooded the town July 12 detected new movement in the wall.

"There was some movement," he said, "but it was insignificant."

Cost estimates

Eldred said repairs could cost $750,000 to $1.3 million.

The lower estimate is for the installation of steel rods to anchor the wall. If the stone facing of the wall needs replacement, it will cost more, he said.

Abrams said High Street residents sometimes use a golf cart to haul their groceries up the hill from Main Street.

"Everybody is ready to blow their minds, and there is still no end in sight," she said.

"Is the work going to be done this time next year?" she asked. "There are still a lot of unanswered questions."

`It's not easy'

Abrams said residents could take a shortcut from the parking lot to their homes by climbing the stairs adjacent to Town Hall.

"But that's not easy," she said, because they contain about 100 steps up a steep hill. "That is like making six trips up the steps going into my home. You carry a gallon of milk, a container of laundry detergent and some other groceries up those steps. ... It's not easy.

"We will be happy when the work is started," Abrams said. "We will be elated when it's finished. But we can't get too excited at this time. The bids haven't even been advertised yet."

Speaking for herself and other residents of High Street, she added: "We're sitting here thinking, `How are we going to get oil deliveries to our homes this winter? How are we going to get gas deliveries to our homes? How bad is the winter going to be?'

"What is it going to be like hauling our groceries up the hill when there is 2 feet of snow on the ground?' I'm not looking forward to going down this hill in a golf cart when there's snow on the ground."

But Abrams said one positive outweighs the negatives: "We are still in our homes."

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