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Indiana city still dealing with old coal-storage vaults

A northern Indiana city still has more than two dozen underground coal-storage vaults that need addressing more than eight years after a man walking on a sidewalk plunged into one of the chambers.

Posted: Aug 17, 2020 9:01 AM

GOSHEN, Ind. (AP) — A northern Indiana city still has more than two dozen underground coal-storage vaults that need addressing more than eight years after a man walking on a sidewalk plunged into one of the chambers.

Goshen officials began mapping and inspecting the vaults after Dew Drop Inn owner Ken Carner fell 8 feet into a vault under his building in July 2012 when its weakened roof gave way.

That led to a cost-sharing program to fill in the most dangerous vaults and under which building owners paid to wall off their basements, while the city paid to fill in the cavity. The cost of repairing the overhead sidewalk was split, The Elkhart Truth reported.

While some of the vaults were shored up and restored, 30 were closed by the time the cost-sharing program ended in 2018, but 27 still need to be addressed, Public Works Director Dustin Sailor told the Goshen Redevelopment Commission last week.

He said that while annual inspections were required for the vaults identified as the biggest concerns, no known follow-up was done after reports were last received in 2015.

Sailor’s staff inspected the 27 remaining vaults and found that 12 were safe with no apparent repairs needed, six were in OK condition with future repairs likely required, and nine others were bad and needed to have corrective measures done soon.

Sailor said he’d like to have the “OK” and “bad” vaults inspected by a structural engineer to help determine the next step. He estimated it could cost $3,000 per location.

But some commission members balked at that proposal, with Commission President Tom Stump calling it too expensive.

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