Sinkholes threaten Fire Department, officials say
By Bobby Bryant
Dangerous sinkholes have been eating chunks of Orange and Wells streets since at least 2015, causing headaches for drivers and Darlington city officials.
But those are the streets that the Darlington Fire Department must use to send its trucks to battle fires – and now the headaches have turned into real fears and concerns.
“The other day, a fire truck came out; the road collapsed under it,” city Fire Chief Pat Cavanaugh told City Council March 3.
“Fortunately for us, no damage was done,” Cavanaugh told council. “We had the truck checked out,” and it was “OK,” he said. No firefighters were hurt.
The hole looked about a foot wide, but when it was dug out to be patched, “I believe (the collapsing area) was 6 to 8 feet long,” he said.
“I don’t know what else to say,” Cavanaugh told council. “But we need to get something done. My biggest fear is that the side of the (fire station) building along Wells Street collapses out. The parking lot right now, if you look out front by the road, we get sinkhole after sinkhole.
“There’s a lot of equipment there – probably $4 million or $5 million worth of equipment,” he said. If part of the fire station collapsed into the increasingly spongy ground, the damage could be huge. “The city ourselves, we don’t have the money to fix it, but we’ve got to start somewhere.”
City Manager Howard Garland told council during a work session last week, “We’re going to need a new fire department building sooner rather than later. It should be a priority. We need a new fire department building.”
Mayor Curtis Boyd has asked S.C. Sen. Gerald Malloy of Hartsville for state help in getting repairs done on stormwater drains and pipes – a big contributor to the weakening ground. He said he wanted everyone to be aware of this problem and asked that people “call anybody we can call.”
“I’ve told Sen. Malloy and I’ve told Rep. (Robert) Williams” the situation, Boyd said. “We’re sitting on time bombs. It’s not a pothole, it’s a time bomb.” He said previous repairs on old piping in the area weren’t good enough, and it’s putting people in danger.
In a report to council, Garland said that the state Department of Transportation has temporarily fixed sinkholes in the area “with dirt and asphalt patch(es), but has not come up with a permanent solution.”
In 2015, Garland said in the report, DOT asked Darlington for financial help in “fixing the Orange and Wells streets issues.” City Council, Garland said, OK’d $50,000 for the work. In 2015, Garland said, “estimates to fix the problem came in around $300,000.” Since then, Garland said, DOT has never sent the city a contract or invoice for its part of the funding and the work has been in limbo.