Repairs that include replacing collapsed metal culverts with new concrete culverts on the Taco Bell and Winkler Mill Shopping Center properties along U.S. 421 in Wilkesboro will take about a year to complete and likely cost between $1 million and $1.5 million.

Wilkesboro Town Manager Ken Noland shared that estimate in an interview Monday and also spoke about the work during a Wilkes Economic Development Corp. board meeting Friday.

He said town crews using town equipment completed all investigative digging needed for North Wilkesboro-based Blue Ridge Engineering to start design work on a plan for addressing sinkholes that have plagued that area since mid-2017.

Noland said the crews found a critical junction box where two six-foot pipes were welded together and ran a camera there to provide information allowing Blue Ridge Engineering 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 officials hope to put the project out for contractor bids by the end of the summer., said Noland. The project should take about a year to complete, “so by next summer we hope this will be behind us and just a distant memory.”

He added that crews got to the bottom of the largest and original sinkhole at Taco Bell and determined that the culvert there wasn’t completely clogged, allowing for a slow flow of storm water. He said the pipe could either be abandoned or filled with “flowable fill” or loose concrete.

Town staff are itemizing all town costs incurred to date on the sinkhole situation, including the exploratory digging. A bill for costs incurred by the town through May was already sent to the estate of the late J.C. Faw, owners of parcels totaling 7.86 acres with the sinkholes and collapsed culvert. This bill exceeded $100,000.

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.

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.”

Iron Horse Auction Co. is auctioning off properties in the estate in phases, with the first auction sale scheduled on Thursday and continuing through June 27. The next two are in July 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.

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