Town of Wilkesboro crews are continuing inspections of the Taco Bell-area sinkhole site along U.S. 421 in Wilkesboro for further degradation due to concerns about the impact of recent heavy rain, said Wilkesboro Town Manager Ken Noland in a board work session Monday morning.
Noland said that after recent rain, town officials are concerned that the sinkholes in the area could worsen and new ones appear, possibly requiring the fenced-in area to be enlarged.
He added that town officials plan to meet with North Wilkesboro-based Blue Ridge Engineering officials over the next several weeks to review initial engineering plans drawn up to abate the sinkhole issue.
“We expect that the design will be approximately 40% complete when we meet. This will be an opportunity for all the stakeholders to weigh in on the proposed restoration plans.”
In June, it was estimated that repairs that include replacing collapsed metal culverts with new concrete culverts on the properties will take about a year to complete and likely cost between $1 million and $1.5 million.
Town crews using town equipment in June completed all investigative digging needed to start design work on a plan for addressing sinkholes that have plagued that area since mid-2017. Town officials hope to put the project out for contractor bids by the end of the summer.
Town crews found a critical junction box where two six-foot pipes were welded together and ran a camera there to provide information allowing engineers to go into full design mode.
Noland said a new concrete pipeline will be installed in a southeasterly direction from an existing storm drain inlet in the Tractor Supply store parking lot to near U.S. 421, where it will connect with a new N.C. Department of Transportation pipe installed under the highway. He said this will replace the existing failed culvert from the parking lot to the intersection of Winkler Mill Road and U.S. 421.
Town staff are itemizing all town costs incurred to date on the sinkhole situation, including the exploratory digging, and bills are being sent to the estate of the late J.C. Faw, owners of parcels totaling 7.86 acres with the sinkholes and collapsed culvert.
Under a consent judgment issued by Resident Superior Court Judge Michael D. Duncan in April, Faw’s estate and his company, Wisco Development, must reimburse the town for any liabilities, losses or costs it incurs from remedying the sinkhole problems beyond what is covered by the town’s insurance.
The consent judgment declared the property a public nuisance and gave the town authority to carry out whatever work is needed there to remedy the situation.
The 96 parcels are collectively valued at $15 million to $20 million and 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.”
Iron Horse Auction Co. auctioned off properties in the estate during two sales in June. The next two are this month and August. Properties for sale are listed on the company’s website at ironhorseauction.com.
The consent judgment awarded the town a lien on the Taco Bell and other parcels deemed a nuisance, as well as on all parcels owned by Faw or Wisco in Wilkesboro or within one mile of the city limits. This means they can be ordered sold to raise money to reimburse the town.
Also Monday morning, Noland updated the council on the following projects:
• interviews for president of the Wilkesboro Tourism Development Authority (TDA) are expected to begin over the next few weeks. Several resumes have been reviewed, and the application process will remain open until the position is filled. Jodi Tonsic resigned as TDA director in April;
• a waterline reconnecting the Wilkesboro and North Wilkesboro water systems is complete, with all metering equipment in place. The 8-inch waterline crosses the Yadkin River between the two towns near the Wilkesboro Avenue bridge. The old valve box was located at the northeast corner of Harvest Time Christian Academy (old Wilkes Central High School). “I believe the interconnectivity will serve us both well in the years to come,” he added;
• work on a one-mile extension of the walking/bike trails at Cub Creek has begun and will complete a 1.5-mile loop named “Tornado Alley.” The extension is being designed and built by Jim Horton of Wilkesboro, who did all the previous trail work at Cub Creek;
• regarding the Browns Ford Loop waterline project, town personnel located the town’s existing raw waterline and force main with ground-penetrating radar. The results are being compared with the existing bore profile to ensure the adjustments made to the bore profile maintain a buffer from these lines. “Concurrently, all parties are reviewing a potential alternative solution should the adjusted bore profile prove to be a less than optimal solution. The tank portion of the project lacks one small punch-list item” and expects to be completed and paid for in July; and
• town staff will be trained next week to operate a new $2 million wastewater clarifier from Ovivo. Noland said there is a possibility of starting up the new clarifier and bringing it online if all goes according to plan. “The wastewater plant is performing well overall, given the circumstances of inflow fluctuation from Tyson (Foods Inc.), but the ability to bring this online in the very near future is a great benefit.”