Dispute grows over Harriman sinkhole

Dispute grows over Harriman sinkhole

Posted:
A big hole in a parking lot has been very visible along U.S. 27 just south of Harriman for nearly two years now. Efforts were initially made to fill it in, but they failed. A big hole in a parking lot has been very visible along U.S. 27 just south of Harriman for nearly two years now. Efforts were initially made to fill it in, but they failed.
The 6 feet deep, 15 feet wide hole has swallowed more than half of Martin Gilliam's parking lot. The 6 feet deep, 15 feet wide hole has swallowed more than half of Martin Gilliam's parking lot.
"It's got the potential of being very dangerous. It's on the side of a main highway," Martin Gilliam said. "It's got the potential of being very dangerous. It's on the side of a main highway," Martin Gilliam said.
"The city's position is very simple. This hole exists on private property. It is not within the state right of way with U.S. 27 that we see out here," said City Attorney Harold Balcom. "The city's position is very simple. This hole exists on private property. It is not within the state right of way with U.S. 27 that we see out here," said City Attorney Harold Balcom.

By DON DARE
6 On Your Side Consumer Investigator

HARRIMAN (WATE) - A dispute in Harriman between a store owner and the city over a parking lot collapse is spilling into its second year.

The store owner says he should not be responsible to fix the hole, so he called 6 On Your Side to state his case. The city's attorney however, has a different opinion.

A big hole in a parking lot has been very visible along U.S. 27 just south of Harriman for nearly two years now. Efforts were initially made to fill it in, but they failed. 

Over time the expanse has widened and both sides admit it has become increasingly dangerous.

"When the hole first started that wall collapsed," said Martin Gilliam.

Gilliam, the owner of Hill Top Pawn Shop, closed his business in Harriman last May, mainly because the parking lot in front of his store caved in.

The 6 feet deep, 15 feet wide hole has swallowed more than half of his parking lot.

Gilliam says the hole was created when a culvert collapsed nearly two years ago. The culvert, or conduit, runs under two parking lots and was dug years before Gilliam bought his building.

Gilliam says he poured cement hoping to fix the problem. It didn't work.

"It's got the potential of being very dangerous. It's on the side of a main highway," he said.

Gilliam says the city has told him he has to repair the hole because it's on his property. Gilliam believes the city should fix it.

"A good portion of it is theirs, I think the water main caused it, but I can't get them to work with me on that. They say it is mine, but I have already spent and spent. But that water line is what caused it," Gilliam said.

The city of Harriman sent a notice on August 17, 2012 saying the collapse of the drainage system is dangerous and an imminent threat.

Gilliam had 10 days to make repairs, but his attorney appealed and won a delay.

City Attorney Harold Balcom admits Harriman has been slow in forcing the issue of repairing the hole. He says Gilliam has had enough time for the engineers he was to hire to come up with a plan of action.

"I have instructed my city officials that a year and a half is more than enough time for him to come up with engineering plans and survey documentation for either the city council to hear his appeal or for him to repair this," said Balcom.

The hole is now within a few feet of U.S. 27. Parts of the parking lot are collapsing next to a drain installed by the state when the road was widened.

"It's just an endangerment to the public. I'm afraid a child is going to go in there or someone is going to get hurt," said Arlene Carr, who owns a business next to the pawn shop.

"The edging is falling in," she said. "It's getting very deep."

"I'd like to see it get fixed or determine who really is responsible. I just can't see that the butt of this is my responsibility," said Gilliam.

"The city's position is very simple. This hole exists on private property. It is not within the state right of way with U.S. 27 that we see out here," said Balcom.

The city's attorney say he expects Gilliam to explain his plan at a city meeting next month

"The responsibility to correct this problem and to maintain it would be the owner's," Balcom said.

A showdown on the damaged parking lot is nearing. Both sides are pretty firm on their beliefs of who holds responsibility for repairs.

A hearing date for a decision will be set in a few weeks by Harriman City Council.

Everyone agrees the hole needs to be filled in.

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