Fixing sinkhole could cost Nixa six figures

Thursday, August 17, 2006
A sinkhole continued to swallow the home of Norman Scrivener in Nixa, Mo., on Wednesday. When the sinkhole opened up Sunday, it took the garage and Scrivener's car. The sinkhole has gradually widened to take more of the house. (Dean Curtis)

Tests on the sinkhole failed to yield clues about how it formed or whether it will grow.

NIXA, Mo. -- The area around a sinkhole that has swallowed part of one home and is threatening another will be fenced off as workers remove a Chevrolet Cavalier and a garage from the bottom of the hole, city officials decided.

The plan to clean up the 75-foot-deep sinkhole could cost the southwest Missouri city hundreds of thousands of dollars, the Nixa Board of Aldermen was told at a special meeting Tuesday.

That estimate includes negotiations to buy land where the ruined home of Norman Scrivener used to be and where Trudy Fugitt's home is threatened.

City officials have asked Rep. Jay Wasson, R-Nixa, to encourage the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to set funds aside for the project, city administrator Brian Bingle said.

Scrivener -- who was reading a newspaper Sunday morning when his one-story home began sliding -- said his insurance will pay for the loss of the house but not for the land.

Meanwhile, tests on the sinkhole Monday failed to yield clues about how it formed or whether it will grow, said geologist Paul Price, head of the DNR's Division of Geology and Land Survey.

"The geophysical investigation that we attempted really didn't turn out to be very helpful, unfortunately," Price said. "We're not quite sure exactly why that is. It may have been interference from buried utilities."

City aldermen decided Tuesday to have an 8-foot fence topped by barbed wire put around Scrivener's property and Fugitt's property just north of the sinkhole.

Consultant Gary Pendergrass also advised the aldermen to take action to stabilize the sinkhole, which he said could grow to 150 feet in diameter. The work would include using a large crane to remove debris, then filling it with rock and capping it with soil.

An inspection of the sinkhole Tuesday indicated that there wasn't much growth in the hole's size, Pendergrass said.

Christian County currently has no comprehensive sinkhole regulations. But interim county planning administrator Glenda Hammons said she had been studying the issue just before the sinkhole occurred.

"The last few weeks, I have done research and nowhere in our code does it state you cannot fill in a sinkhole," Hammons said. "I've been talking to the county commissioners to get something up and running so something like this wouldn't happen."

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