City Engineer Jack Dalrymple gave a slideshow presentation to Commerce City Council on Tuesday discussing the subsidence holes.

COMMERCE— A second subsidence hole has begun forming less than a month after the first subsidence hole was discovered by Commerce along Main Street and Newman/East 60 Road.

City Engineer Jack Dalrymple gave a slideshow presentation to Commerce City Council on Tuesday discussing the subsidence holes.

He showed a photo from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the undermined area by Main Street, Commerce and North Miami. Dalrymple said he checks the subsidence hole area and searches for any additional openings every other day.

A second subsidence has begun opening up east of the first subsidence hole, which Dalrymple has named the “little sister.” Dalrymple noticed the small subsidence less than a month after finding the “big sister.” He said the “little sister” seems to grow after it rains.

“We’ve named it the ‘little sister,’ and that’s about 30 feet away (from the original subsidence hole),” Dalrymple said. “It’s beginning to grow. I took that photo in February, and it’s a bit bigger. It’s still active, and we’re monitoring it and taking elevations. It’s not moving as fast as it was six weeks ago but it still has slight movement.”

Dalrymple said he hoped to initiate dialogue regarding the issue with the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ), EPA and the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) but had no luck.

“I asked ODEQ about six hours ago why I haven’t heard a response, and he said ‘the silence is deafening isn’t it? Nobody wants to say anything,’” Dalrymple said. “The reason why is because EPA will probably not be making the safety use decision or the unsafety use decision. ODEQ will definitely not be making that decision, so ODOT might be willing to discuss jointly with us plans after we get the drilling information.”

The next step going forward is to measure the growth and search what’s beneath the holes by drilling and using a camera. Commerce Main Street and Newman/East 60 Road is maintained by the county, who will be funding the drilling and investigation.

“We got a list of well drillers from ODEQ, and just mobilization was going to be $50,000 for the cheapest one without ever drilling a hole,” Dalrymple said. “We’ve discussed just getting well drillers to drill a hole and (District 1 County Commissioner) John Clarke found a pretty decent one. We’ll get several holes drilled at a reasonable price. We’ve already got the utilities marked out there, and we got together and decided where we want the first holes drilled. We thought we were going to have to hire a camera to go down it, but the guy who’s drilling the holes has his own camera.”

Upon drilling, Dalrymple said they expect to find a cavern full of water after drilling about 80 feet.

“Depending on what we see, it’s going to drive the design and knowing the material that we’re drilling through is going to help determine if we have stability with the type of soil and type of rocks,” Dalrymple said. “We’re looking to Geotech on that and determine whether we feel like we have a bridge there.”

The concern is that the barricaded road could open up at any moment and create a subsidence hole just like the big and little sister.

“The problem is that this could’ve been as easily right in the middle of that road as it was 10 yards away from it, and it could still develop like that,” Dalrymple said. “The concern is, it was a road one day and a hole the next. We have a person in Commerce going to the hospital at midnight, expecting the road to be there and runs into it. It could be a serious catastrophe. We don’t have any real scientific basis to open the road or don’t open the road. Right now, we’re going to err on the side of caution and keep it closed until we come up with something.

“When we get the drilling information and talk to EPA, DEQ and ODOT, maybe they’ll be willing to discuss my preliminary design, which is realistic,” he added.

Commerce board member Elijah Redden asked after drilling, what materials underneath do they hope to find in order to keep the road help up.

“I would like to see some solid bedrock, but you have to remember, that’s what they were after, and so you have to almost think the solid bedrock isn’t there because you have these subsidence issues,” Dalrymple said. “I hope we can identify some solid bedrock, which would be like a concrete bridge, and if we see that, we would have some confidence.”

Dalrymple went on to explain that the road has fallen more than once and Clarke had filled it with asphalt twice. Cracks have begun forming in the road and are reaching in the direction of the subsidence holes. The cracks are being monitored and tracked with spray paint markings.

“We have to know that there are issues there and with time, they just get worse,” Dalrymple said. “They don’t get better.”

In 12 weeks, Dalrymple said the road on the Commerce side has fallen an inch and an eighth. The elevation is tracked and recorded every two weeks.

Afterward, Dalrymple stated that he had a very productive meeting with Empire District Electric Company. The City of Commerce has experienced multiple issues with Empire in the past including power outages and problems with light poles.

“We discussed the lack of redundancy- why one telephone pole knocks us out and they can’t hook us back up, why we have poor maintenance and poor inspection, lack of spare parts,” Dalrymple said. “They didn’t deny any of that. In fact, they did have spare transformers and I asked them where they were and they said they were using them. I told them then that’s not a spare transformer. They’ve marked lots and lots of telephone poles and they started replacing them.

“It took so many meetings, but I think they got the message that we knew that our service was poor and our communication with them was poor,” he added. “I don’t think that everything we want is going to happen. I still think they’re going to get a large rate increase. However, a large rate increase for service is much worse than a large rate increase for acceptable service.”

In other news, the council tabled the vote to enter into an agreement with Jim Long for grant writing services due to his current condition. The former Commerce City Council member was critically injured as the result of a head-on collision on Feb. 24. The wreck occurred approximately two miles South of Columbus, Kansas on US-69.

Long has been steadily healing after the wreck, where he sustained several injuries including a shattered femur, a broken sternum, brain bleeding and a couple of broken ribs. The council said he is currently recuperating at home.

“I think everyone has heard that Jim was in a real, real bad wreck a little bit south of Columbus,” Mayor Michael Hart said. “It’s been about three or four weeks back. I don’t know if he ever got to look at anything. We’ll table item number four and let it keep reoccurring until we get something more positive from Jim.

“The last I talked to him, he’s doing good,” he added. “He’s in a lot of pain, obviously. He has quite the road to recovery. I think he spent five to six days total in the hospital and was able to go home.”

In city administrator reports, the ditches between B and C along Quincy St. will be repaired with the $50,000 Development Block Grant/Rural Economic Action Plan (CDBG/REAP) Grant that was awarded to the city. Dalrymple said he is currently working on a design for the repairs.

“It will be sloped out better, so if a car does drive into the ditch, it’s easier to get out of,” City Administrator Tommy Long said. “We’re going to have curbs on it to try and keep the cars out of it. We’re going to match the volume of the two bridges on C St. so that we get full capacity of flow through those.”

Long said they are currently soliciting bids for concrete and rebar materials to be used in the project. He said as soon as this project is completed, he will apply for the CDBG grant again for repairs on the next block.

Lastly, the board went into executive session and voted to amend the City Attorney’s Professional Services Agreement to add additional legal counsel, specifically the Doney & Whalen, PLLC.

In a few months, City Attorney Erik Johnson said he will no longer be working for the city and will be focusing on his other municipalities. Johnson will be bringing in Doney & Whalen up to speed before his departure. Johnson has been the city attorney for Commerce since 2006 and has law offices in Miami, Tulsa and Ada.

The City of Commerce will meet at 6 p.m. on April 11 in City Hall for its next regular meeting.