Town attacks sink hole

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:45

    FRANKLIN-After exercising patience, borough officials say the solution to the sink hole on High St. will soon be corrected, first by Elizabethtown Gas Co. and then by Franklin itself. Mayor Doug Kistle announced last week that Elizabethtown, after having consulted in person with the borough earlier, will begin its rerouting of the gas line in the large hole on or by June 7, with that work scheduled to be completed on or by June 25. Soon after that, the borough will get to work on first plugging, and then sealing, the pavement in the affected area. The new gas line will now run from High Street over to Rutherford Avenue, some 200 or so feet within Cummins Street, Kistle said, before crossing over to both Nester and LaRue Streets. The new route will then cross over to the western side of Main Street before eventually connecting with the existing High Street line as it enters Main. Also, the mayor added, connections for planned future hookups will be installed, including one across from Parker Street, and another at the intersection of Main and Junction Streets in order to help serve the eventual development of the Zinctown Property site at that exact area. "At that point," Kistle said, "we will really be able to open up that hole and determine what we really have there." Borough officials are planning to install a bridging of sorts within the hole, much like a cork in a bottle before cementing all of it over from the top. "Right," concurred Phillip Crabb, the borough's emergency management coordinator, "similar to what they used to do in the old (New Jersey) Zinc Co. days. Like a dentist working with a cavity, we'll clean it all out along the edges, put a bridge at the bottom of it, and then pour concrete in the hole. That's the way they used to do it in the old days, and it's the way we think they're going to do it this time, too." Because High Street is directly over where at least part of Franklin's rich, massive ore body was, everyone agrees that the sink hole is directly attributable to a series of old mine shafts underneath. At the same time, borough officials have cautioned that the problem of recurring sinkhole problems within the High Street area cannot be ruled out. "It's what we have and we just have to continue to make the best of it," stated borough councilman John Sowden IV, who feels that High Street's subsiding has been taking place since about 1936. "It's something to be concerned about, but we also don't want people getting all nervous and saying, ‘oh, boy, there goes my house.' I don't want to see a panic happen just because of a couple of sinkholes. It's going to be a slower process now. And we have a general idea of where the mine was and how to take care of it." "It is a very limited area with this subsidence," added Crabb, who is a lifelong borough resident. "There's no development over any area of potential subsiding. I think the important thing is that we're able to get that road reopened. We had never intended for it to remain an eyesore. We're looking at a more long-term solution to the issue." High Street, acknowledged by many to be right "through the bull's eye" of Franklin's illustrious mining past, at one time was perhaps the highest thoroughfare in town. "Yes, I guess that's true," commented Jack Baum, who served as a zinc company geologist from 1939 until his retirement in 1971. "It was quite a mound. That was straight across or even higher at one time." Sowden, who is known for his historical knowledge of Franklin, added that at least one home on Buckwheat Road was once situated on High Street before being relocated sometime in the late 1940s after the settling of High Street along a quarter-mile stretch became a problem. Baum, an active member of the Hamburg Historical Society, also said that the old borough hall, once located at the corner of Parker and High Streets, had to be abandoned sometime in the 1940s as well.