Neighbors Randy Olszyk, 32 Hemlock St., and Mary Ann Siegel, 34 Hemlock St., Wilkes-Barre Township, stand near a large hole that has opened up in Siegel’s front yard.CLARK VAN ORDEN/THE TIMES LEADER
WILKES-BARRE TWP. – Mary Ann Siegel says 12 years of waiting for help is long enough.
She and her neighbors – Randy and Donna Olszyk – have embarked on a media blitz to try to pressure state officials to fill the gaping hole in Siegel’s front yard that is getting bigger after every heavy rain.
Siegel lives at 34 Hemlock St. in Wilkes-Barre Township – the last house on the left – and the Olszyks live next door at 32 Hemlock. They say the current condition has devalued their homes, making them unmarketable.
The neighbors say the hole creates an unsafe situation for people and animals, and they want it fixed.
“We’ve been everywhere asking for help,” Siegel said.
“Our state representative told us the state has no money and we should hire a lawyer,” said Randy Olszyk.
Township Mayor Carl Kuren and council Chairwoman Mary Yuknavich were at the site Thursday. They said the state is responsible for fixing the problem.
State Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Wilkes-Barre, issued a statement via e-mail.
“I have been up there on two occasions and have had numerous discussions with PennDOT and the Wilkes-Barre Township officials. At this point, the question is who is responsible for fixing the problem. I have had ongoing communications with PennDOT over the last three weeks and I am waiting for their determination before I can proceed. This has been a problem long before I was elected and I am working to bring the parties together to agree on an amicable solution.”
Karen Dussinger, PennDOT spokeswoman, said communication is continuing with township officials and Pashinski.
“Drainage issues are complicated,” she said. “It depends on the location. We certainly don’t want any damage to occur on any person’s property, but it all comes down to jurisdiction.”
Olszyk said he is concerned about safety of children in the area and of people just walking by. His dog, Bandit, fell into the hole three years ago when it wasn’t as deep as it is now. The Jack Russell terrier managed to crawl out and returned home covered in mud and very much shaken by the experience, he said.
The hole has been backfilled several times over the years, but it quickly reopens after a hard rain as the fill is washed away. Yellow police line tape surrounds the hole now, and orange cones and barricades mark off the area.
The hole measures about 10 feet in diameter and about 8 feet deep. The void goes under Siegel’s property and continues toward Hemlock Street and onto Olszyk’s driveway. The Olszyks have two children, ages 12 and 15, and Siegel has two adult children, 20 and 28, who live with her.
The residents say they think a drain pipe that runs under Interstate 81 has broken or become blocked causing water to take a different path. Kuren and Yuknavich agree and they think the state is responsible to correct the problem.
“You can see it’s getting worse,” Yuknavich said as she peered into the hole. “It’s starting to go down Hemlock Street. It can’t stay like this; it has to be filled for good.”