Sinkhole fix in sight

Work on giant hole along U.S. 321 should end by next week
Sep. 06, 2013 @ 08:09 AM

Work to repair damaged pipes in a sinkhole at the Mi Carreta Mexican Grill could be completed by the end of next week.

The sinkole, near the intersection of U.S. 321 and McLean Drive, was formed after the earth began to collapse in June around a storm drain in the restaurant's parking lot. Hickory-based Huffman Grading excavated around the drain and discovered damage to a box culvert and the 48-inch storm drain. Since then, the work to expose the damaged portions of the pipe, which officials have said are about 50 years old, has resulted in a large, deep hole that includes part of the parking lot of the adjacent Tobbaco To Go convenience store.

"The pipes are rotting out," said site foreman George Fredell, of Huffman Grading.

The hole now is 32 feet deep and about 60 feet across. Giant piles of dirt surround the rim, largely blocking the view of restaurant from the highway. About 60 feet of pipe is being replaced, and a new box culvert is ready to be dropped in.

The City of Lenoir also will replace a 6-inch water line that was exposed by the sinkhole. City crews rerouted the flow of water between two hydrants to avoid disruption to service shortly after the sinkhole opened.

The owner of the land on which Mi Carreta sits, James Derr, previously estimated the repair cost to be in excess of $100,000. Fredell said Derr and the property owner of the convenience store lot are sharing the cost, but he did not know the total cost or the share that each property owner will pay. Attorneys for Derr and BCW Properties, which owns the land occupied by the convenience store, and their insurance companies had been in negotiations to settle the issue.

The hole has drawn curiosity-seekers. It has also drawn the ire of Mi Carreta's owner, Juan Torras, who says he has lost about 20 parking spaces to the excavation, and about 30 percent of his business since July. Torras is eager to reclaim his lost sales after the sinkhole is repaired.

"I am happy for my business," he said.