When heavy storms caused the road leading into the Waldorf Park apartments in Ross to collapse on June 11, the township wasted little time dispatching a crew to close off access to the site and begin repairs.
But to move forward with repairs, officials had to issue an emergency declaration the next day authorizing the township to make the repairs because the property owners do not believe the work is their responsibility.
On Monday, commissioners voted unanimously to ratify the declaration to make the repairs, but the question of who ultimately will foot the bill remains unanswered.
Township officials say the commercial properties along McKnight Road are, in fact, responsible for maintaining and repairing the underground stormwater line.
“This is a private pipe,” said Commissioner Jeremy Shaffer. “Even though we are fixing it, our intent is to send a bill to the property owners in order to have them reimburse us.”
The apartment complex’s owners, however, say the sinkhole is located on land that was deeded over to the municipality a number of years ago.
Commission President Steve Korbel said there is a good reason the township is not responsible for maintaining or repairing the storm lines.
“When much of that property was developed 60 or 70 years ago, the owners ran lines to handle stormwater from their buildings into a small open creek that ran along Mcknight Road that was then covered over with pavement,” Korbel said. “The storm lines were not installed by the township.”
The problems caused by the repeated failure of the stormwater system prompted Korbel to ask township engineers and the public works department to develop a blueprint that shows the location of the storm lines and more importantly, their condition.
“To prevent this from happening over and over again, we have to do something to compel property owners to make the necessary repairs before there is a failure in the system,” Korbel said. “If we know there is a problem with a pipe, we shouldn’t be waiting around for it to break before we go fix it.”
The underground storm line runs from the McCandless border along the southbound lanes of McKnight and then crosses under the roadway and discharges into Girty’s Run behind the Red Lobster restaurant.
The sinkhole at the entrance to Waldorf Towers was caused by a high volume of fast moving water flowing through the line during the storm that blew out a manhole cover and collapsed the pavement, according to township public works officials.
The collapse created a 10-foot hole in the ground measuring about 30-feet-by-10 feet in circumference.
Initial work involved removing debris from the sinkhole to ensure that stormwater can continue to flow if it rains.
A private contractor is expected to complete the repairs within a week.
The township is still determining how much the repairs will cost, but Korbel has noted that a similar repair project conducted several years ago cost a little less than $200,000 to complete.