The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

March 26, 2013

End to church’s sinkhole problem may be in sight

ENID, Okla. — The end of a months-long sinkhole ordeal finally might be in sight for Bethel Baptist Church.

The ordeal began in October after a large OG&E Electric Services transmission pole between the church parking lot and the east edge of Cleveland was struck by lightning and had to be replaced. OG&E workers cut through a buried AT&T transmission cable while replacing the pole. AT&T came to the scene to dig a trench to replace the damaged cable, and that night’s rain caused the first sinkhole to appear.

When AT&T was alerted to the sinkhole, company officials looked at it and blamed OG&E. In time, a second, larger sinkhole appeared near the first. In mid-February, the city of Enid put dirt in the sinkholes to eliminate the immediate safety hazard, and notified AT&T to come repair the dangerous sinkhole.

Sometime last week, AT&T sent workers to repair the sinkholes. Now, the sinkhole is filled in again, but the soft ground sinks when it’s walked across, and instead of crushed asphalt to match the church parking lot, rough gravel was laid down in its place.

That doesn’t make the church pastor, Wesley Byrd, pleased. The church has had problems in the past with neighborhood children throwing gravel rocks at the building, which is why the church installed a crushed asphalt parking lot before the first sinkhole showed up in October.

Steve Kime, marketing and public relations director for the city of Enid, said the city will take photos inside the underground pipes in the area of the sinkhole to help determine what the problem is.

“We’re trying to find out who made the gravel repair,” Kime added. “I do not believe it was the city folks, but I’m trying to confirm that. We have reached out to AT&T to find out what they have done, because it got put back in their corner. It’s probably very frustrating for the pastor being passed back and forth.”

Kime said AT&T officials promised the city they would contact their subcontractor and will take the gravel off the parking lot and replace it with crushed asphalt before the church’s Wednesday night services.

Charlie Price, AT&T spokesman, sent an email to the Enid News & Eagle Tuesday afternoon reading, “We have alerted the appropriate personnel, who visited the site this morning to inspect the work that was previously performed. The work was performed in accordance with our standard practice, including tamping in extra dirt to account for any settling that may occur with future rains. We understand the church has requested that the gravel covering the location be removed, which we will do, replacing it with crushed asphalt.”

Price did not explain why the dirt is soft enough to sink when walked upon, if it had been tamped down to account for future settling.

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