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Couple awaits progress on sink hole on Robinson Township property

| Wednesday, July 31, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
James Knox
Steve and Robin Hood have allowed the vegetation in their Robinson back yard to grow wild in an effort to keep sons Sidney (left), 2, Demitry, 4, and Cory, 5, away from a sink hole.

Steve and Robin Hood envisioned their young sons building forts and throwing balls in the safety of a secluded yard when they bought their Robinson home in 2011.

Two years later, they prefer their children play in the front yard — near traffic on Keiners Lane — rather than risk harm from what they deem a more dangerous scenario in the backyard: a giant sinkhole caused by a busted municipal stormwater pipe.

“You step on grass where it looks like solid ground, and you fall right through,” said Robin Hood, 27, who twice has fallen into the hole — including once while pushing a running lawn mower. “It amazes me that the township hasn't done more to fix this, since we have three young children.”

Township Manager Jeff Silka said the problem is being addressed, even if no work can be seen.

Easements are being obtained, and a contractor will be hired.

“We're hoping to have the work done by the end of the summer,” Silka said. “We are going to correct it.”

The Hoods no longer mow the backyard or allow their sons — ages 5, 4 and 2 — to play there. A swing set stands sentry over the back lot. An abandoned red and yellow toy car is parked in the chest-high weeds and underbrush.

Growth around the hole, which is 4 to 5 feet wide and deep and about 30 feet long, reaches overhead as a deterrent, along with orange plastic fencing that township officials placed around the hazard.

“You don't watch a 2-year-old for a few minutes and anything can happen,” Steve Hood said while standing next to the sinkhole and assessing the back of his half-acre lot.

The hole existed when the Hoods purchased the property in June 2011. Township officials admitted the problem was theirs and that it would be fixed, the Hoods said.

A series of email messages between the couple and township officials support those claims.

Part of the drainage ditch always has been open, Silka said. The plan is to replace the pipe, cover the hole and funnel storm water away from the Hoods' property to an open drainage channel. No estimates are available yet for how much the work could cost.

Similar problems exist with other aging storm drains throughout the township, Silka said.“Everything has a life cycle,” he said. “The trick is getting to it and getting the work done.”

The Hoods said they will be appreciative when the work is finished, but they say they've heard promises from the township before.

“I think that is what makes me so angry in this situation,” Robin Hood said. “They know my children are at risk, and they haven't made it a priority. We thought the backyard was perfect for the boys to keep them out of the street. We had so many plans to have it landscaped, to get a deck. It was beautiful in our minds.

“But that was two years ago. We never thought we'd still be trying to get it fixed.”

Jason Cato is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7936 or jcato@tribweb.com.

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