How celebrity sinkhole amused, taught and touched the Town of Moraga

by Michael Mosher on December 7, 2017

Post image for How celebrity sinkhole amused, taught and touched the Town of Moraga

So what does an awful hole leave when it is no longer around? That was the question in Moraga on Thursday as the town bade a formal farewell to Sinky the Sinkhole, which dominated the intersection of Rheem Boulevard and Center Street for 20 months.

The hole, which appeared out of nowhere during El Niño rains on March 13, 2016, grew 15 feet deep. It bedeviled townsfolk endeavoring to access two main arteries and commercial centers on either side of Center Street. It frustrated Moraga officials whose first request for state funds to effect repairs was denied.

And yes, Sinky amused, lampooning the glacial pace of state bureaucracy that Assemblywoman Catherine Baker, R-San Ramon, calls working on “Sacramento time.” Soon Sinky had a Facebook page. “Thank you so much for having me in your adorable little town,” Sinky wrote. “I hope I can stay here FOREVER!!!” Sinky also got itself a Twitter account.

One year after the sinkhole formed, it was given a birthday cake, balloons, streamers and a sign wishing it, “Happy 1st birthday.”

Ultimately, $2.9 million was received for repair work, with help from Baker and state Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda. A nicer intersection you will never see.

Of course, it rained on Sinky’s ceremony.

“It’s somewhat appropriate that we’re here,” Councilman Dave Trotter said, “in the midst of another atmospheric river to celebrate the end of the sinkhole which started because of an atmospheric river. Although I’ll say maybe the town missed an opportunity to repurpose the sinkhole as a water slide attraction.”

Don’t let the levity fool you. Sinky touched many lives. For starters, he spotlighted a lesson with which Moraga officials were already familiar. Officials such as Trotter, who said Sinky “is a wake-up call regarding the need to develop a dedicated funding source to fix our storm drain infrastructure and to prevent future sinkholes from happening.”

Public Works Director Edric Kwan piggybacked on Trotter’s remarks. “During the five years I’ve worked for the town, we’ve had three other storm drain failures,” he said. “These are indicators our storm drain system is at the end of its life.”

Kwan said that in 2015 the town adopted a master plan related to its storm drains. That plan, he said, identified $26 million of needed storm drain improvements.

But the best remarks came from the heart. Kwan said that as the sinkhole collapsed in on itself, it swallowed part of a sidewalk and a traffic signal that ruptured a four-inch gas line.

“Big hissing sound,” he said. “Our police department and outside agencies responded immediately and evacuated the area. A shelter-in-place order was executed flawlessly.”

Town Manager Bob Priebe, referencing the rain Thursday, noted, “This is very close to what the conditions were on March 13 when I got the call there was a hole in the sidewalk. I went to the police department to get some radios and I walked out the door and heard an explosion that I will never forget. It was like walking into a jet engine on the tarmac. What saved us from a really catastrophic event and probably loss of life was the hole was so filled with water and it was raining.”

Moraga Chamber of Commerce President Wendy Scheck, who urged everyone at Thursday’s event to patronize local businesses affected by the sinkhole, will be forever grateful for that. Her 21-year-old daughter, she said, was working at a pet store across the street that evening, closing up shop and turning off the lights — unaware of the evacuation order issued by authorities who were unaware of her.

“If this place had blown up,” Scheck said, “she probably would have blown up with it. Deep in my heart, I say thank you.”

 

 

Full Article…Here

Previous post:

Next post: