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New culvert being installed to address sinkholes

Installation of a new 66-inch culvert system to address sinkholes that first appeared near the intersection of U.S. 421 and Winkler Mill Road over three years ago started this month.

The N.C. Department of Transportation approved a $4.93 million bid from Burlington-based Triangle Grading & Paving Inc. for the state’s portion of the work in September. The Town of Wilkesboro is responsible for a portion of the new culvert.

The work will result in replacement of dilapidated culvert, which collapsed and caused the sinkholes in the parking lots of the Taco Bell restaurant and a strip shopping center.

A smaller pipeline being installed on the site is for a Frontier Gas line, which must be relocated because of the new culvert.

Work on the state’s portion of the new culvert started where a new section will pass under U.S. 421 near the Winkler Mill Road intersection. The new culvert will continue away from the south side of the highway and down a ravine for about 80 feet. Water from the culvert will be released in an earthen collection basin in the ravine.

The new section of culvert beneath the highway will be installed with bore and jack to create a route for the pipe, using a rotating auger. This avoids disrupting traffic on U.S. 421.

A large trench box, which is temporary, is in place on the north side of U.S. 421 to provide a safe work site. The actual collection box on the north side of the highway will be much smaller, said Mike Pettyjohn, DOT Division 11 engineer.

The new culvert being installed by Triangle will extend 420 feet along the north side of U.S. 421 before it turns right to connect with the town’s portion at a point about 530 feet north of the centerline of Winkler Mill Road, said Kenny H. Heavner, a DOT engineer.

The town’s portion of new culvert will extend in a southeasterly direction from an existing storm drain inlet in the Tractor Supply store parking lot to the section installed by Triangle.

Town Manager Ken Noland said at the Jan. 8 Wilkes Economic Development Corp. meeting that Triangle’s contract calls for its work to be completed by November, but the contractor said it should take six to eight months. Noland said that puts completion of the state’s portion around mid-summer.

He said that when it appears the state’s portion of the project is about 90 days from being completed, the town’s portion will be put out for bids. He explained that an approved bid generally is binding for about 60 days.

Meanwhile, he said, the town is working with the estate of the late J.C. Faw on securing funds for the town’s portion of the work.

Under an April 2019 consent judgment issued by Resident Superior Court Judge Michael D. Duncan, Faw’s estate and his company, Wisco Development, must reimburse the town for any costs it incurs from remedying the sinkhole problems beyond what is covered by the town’s insurance. Town staff are itemizing all town costs incurred on the sinkhole matter.

The consent judgment declared the property a public nuisance and gave the town authority to carry out whatever work was needed to remedy it.

John Logsdon, an attorney in North Wilkesboro, was appointed receiver of 96 parcels in Faw’s estate, collectively valued at $15 to $20 million.

The parcels are being sold or auctioned off to reimburse costs incurred by the town beyond what is covered by its insurance and also to “protect the rights of all of Faw’s creditors.”

One dies, two injured in wreck on N.C. 268 West
  • Updated

One person died and two others were transported to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem as a result of a two-vehicle wreck on N.C. 268 West in the Goshen community Thursday morning.

Trooper Scott Ratliff of the N.C. Highway Patrol said Scott James Wolfe, 28, of Boomer was driving a 1999 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 pickup eastbound on N.C. 268 West behind a Wilkes County Schools bus when he passed the bus in a no-passing zone and collided head-on with a westbound 2000 Mercury Grand Marquis driven by Clyde Delano Cox, 84, of Ferguson.

Ratiff said Cox apparently died upon impact. Emergency personnel had to cut off the top of the Mercury to free Cox’s body from the heavily damaged car, said the trooper.

Wilkes Emergency Medical Services transported Wolfe and a passenger in the Mercury, Erica Paige Cox, 18, of Ferguson, to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem. Wolfe was seriously injured and Cox had non-life threatening injuries.

There were no children on the school bus.

The collision occurred about 10:30 a.m. in a curve near the Whites Creek Road intersection, where two-lane N.C. 268 West is marked with double-yellow lines.

It resulted in N.C. 268 being closed to traffic in both directions for about two hours. Traffic was detoured using N.C. 18 South, which connects with N.C. 268 on the east using Germantown and Mount Carmel Church roads and on the west using Boomer Road.

Charges are pending and the district attorney’s office in Wilkesboro will be consulted as the investigation continues, stated a high patrol press release.

The Goshen, Boomer and Millers Creek fire departments and Wilkes Rescue Squad also responded.

Murder charged in Roaring River man's death
  • Updated

Bert Eugene Lonsway

The Wilkes Sheriff’s Office charged a man with murder on Jan. 12 in connection with the death of a man who lived near him on North Ridge Road in Roaring River.

Bert Eugene Lonsway, 61, of 297 North Ridge Road was arrested in McDuffie County, Ga., on Jan. 13 and awaits extradition to Wilkes County, stated a press release from the Wilkes Sheriff’s Office.

Lonsway is charged with murder in the death of Barry Lee Buckingham, 63, of 263 North Ridge Road. According to the warrant for Lonsway’s arrest, the murder occurred sometime after Nov. 27.

Wilkes deputies went to Buckingham’s residence about 11:30 a.m. Jan. 10 in response to a request for a well-being check. Family members met deputies there and stated that they were concerned because they hadn’t heard anything from him since Thanksgiving.

Deputies made entry after examining the outside of the residence and found a deceased person, later identified as Buckingham. An autopsy was conducted and it appears the victim was subject to some form of fatal blunt force trauma, the press release stated.

Chief Deputy James Summers said Lonsway and Buckingham were acquaintances but no details have been released about a potential motive.

The State Bureau of Investigation and sheriff’s office are continuing their joint investigation of the case, with no further information available at this time.