WESTOVER — A recent city council meeting has council members and the mayor focused on fixing the Holland Avenue wall in Westover as soon as possible.
During the April 2 Westover city council meeting, Mayor David Johnson said he spoke with Thrasher Engineering about the progress on getting the Holland Avenue/Route 19 wall fixed.
“[They were] to meet that evening with the people from the DOH, and he was going to push that the wall should be their responsibility because it is in their right-a-way,” he said.
Johnson said the wall was the responsibility of Westover.
“That’s really not the case,” he said. “We know that one of our predecessors along the way had taken that wall — they wanted ownership of that wall years and years and years ago, which was at the time I guess they thought it was a good idea. I don’t know about now.
“I think one of the concerns we have … we have some concerns where we may want to … what he’s trying for now is an emergency temporary fix, which we don’t want. We want to make sure that when it’s fixed, that it’s fixed correctly.”
Johnson said he will speak to Thrasher and the DOH to see what can be done about the wall.
“In the meantime, that wall is steadily deteriorating, so it may be, and I’m going to talk to him and see what they think, but it may be that the part they think is bad, that we may need to just take that down or tear that off because it’s not formed. There’s not any form of support, like we’ve discussed before.”
First Ward councilmember Ralph Mullins said he needed to share information about the wall, and he requested his comments be put in the minutes.
“[I had] an engineering report done in 2012,” he said. “It was actually supposed to be for the part of the Holland wall that borders my property, which whenever we take a vote on anything in regards to that wall, I will abstain because it could be looked at as a conflict of interest.
“When I first bought that property, I saw the issues and had that report done. I just recently discovered that instead of them doing a report on around where my property borders, it goes around from my property down to the bridge. It’s not good.”
Mullins said he felt responsible for saying something now before an accident occurred.
“The issue is this,” he said, “that wall is not an issue of if it’s going to come down. It’s a question of when, and it doesn’t matter … actually, after I had this report done, within six months I had somebody call [Sen.] Joe Manchin. Joe Manchin called the head of the DOH in Charleston , and I have documentary evidence that that wall, along with the sidewalks was turned over to the city of Westover before I was born.
“We can sit here, if we want to drag our feet and not do anything because there’s been a line item here [on the budget] for $50,000 every since before I was a councilman,” he said. “But if that wall, when it does come down, if it falls on top of a car, and if it kills people, there won’t be a lawsuit for $1 million. It will be $25 million.
“I’ve spoken with the mayor, and I agree with him. I’m all for doing anything I can do with his help to try to get the DOH to help with doing an engineering report and even helping us to fix the wall along with us.”
Mullins said it would behoove the DOH to help with the project because at least one lane of traffic, possibly two, would need to be closed for the project.
A copy of the 2012 engineering report, done by RSK Engineering, said the wall was nearly 500 feet long.
According to the report, “195 feet of the wall needs to be repaired, while the entire length of the wall requires some level of remedial repair. … Considering the wall type, absence of wall in two locations, lack of a key for the wall base, as well as the adjoining drainage ditch, significant threats to the general public’s health and safety are unacceptable.
“Furthermore, the drain line outlet at Front Street needs to be rerouted to assist in fully reducing the discharge running along the edge of Holland Avenue. These threats are real and will only continue to increase in magnitude with time, resulting in a corresponding cost increase.”
Mullins said the report did not include the section of wall that borders his property and that is also in need of repair.
According to The Dominion Post archives from April 8, 2015, the city of Westover said it would be soliciting bids for the wall’s repairs in a few weeks.
According to the article, former Westover Public Works Director Richard Hillberry II said the city had been budgeting for it for two years.
There is a contingent liability in the Westover budget for $50,000 for the Holland wall repairs.
Representatives from the Department of Highways were not available for comment in time for this report.