Metro East school district, town at odds over who must fix sinkh -

Metro East school district, town at odds over who must fix sinkhole

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( - Alton city officials are pressing the Alton school district to fix a massive sinkhole in a school parking lot that causes nearby homes to flood, but school district officials say it’s not entirely their responsibility to fix it.

As more time passes and the city and school district determine responsibility over fixing the sinkhole, which is located in the parking lot of Alton Middle School, and the busted storm water line underneath, innocent homeowners like Stacy Forister are caught in the middle.  Flood damage to Forister’s home has forced her out for two weeks.

“I just want it fixed and to be able to live in my home,” Forister said.

A portion of the school parking lot collapsed in 2012, crushing the pipe underneath that carries rain water. A heavy downpour earlier this month demonstrated the severity of the situation.  Water backed up at the sinkhole and into homes behind the school.

Forister said several feet of water ended up in their family’s basement, damaging their belongings, including clothes that were hanging. 

”They're soaking wet.  Still, two weeks later,” said Forister

Citing city ordinance, Alton Public Works Director Bob Barnhart said the Alton School District is responsible for fixing the hole and the drainage issues.  In fact, Barnhart issued an official notice to the school board February 28th, warning that the district needed to take action to fix the sinkhole problems within 45 days.

“We can no longer wait for any action on the school boards part, which is why we need to take action and force them to comply with what is their responsibility like any other homeowner in the community,” said Barnhart.

School district officials said they’re looking into a solution and that a civil engineer is studying the collapse and that the district is awaiting the results of the study before it proceeds. 

Although Barnhart said the school district is responsible for the fix, school district officials don’t see it that way. Assistant Superintendent Kristie Baumgartner contends the drainage issues are a joint responsibility of the district and city.

Funding the fix is another issue. Barnhart estimates reworking the drainage line could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Alton school district official Chris Norman said the district doesn’t have that kind of money in the budget.

“It's just at a critical point where it can't be pushed back much longer,” said Barnhart.

Barnhart said he doesn’t want to approve city money to solve the issue.

“I have a responsibility to spend the taxpayers' dollars wisely and I can't justify fixing a problem that's not on a city's right of way,” said Barnhart.

Forister was hoping an attorney would be able to help her, but doesn’t know how they’d pay for one.

“We're obviously not rich people, and it's gonna be a problem trying to secure them,” said Forister.

While the city and school district hash it out, depend on News 4 to stay on top of it.

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