HICKORY, NC (WBTV) - A summer of heavy rain has officials in Hickory concerned that the old Buffalo's Sinkhole along Highway 70 may be causing more problems to drainage systems underground.
"Once again, sediment is building up," said Hickory Mayor Rudy Wright on Thursday.
The sinkhole gained national attention in August of 2002 when it opened up in the parking lot of the Buffalo's Restaurant during a heavy storm. No one was hurt but a corvette that was parked there disappeared into a fifty foot deep hole.
The restaurant owners eventually repaired the site and reopened their business, but within months the drain lines failed again.
Eventually a grading contractor, Steve Mason, bought the property and promised to fix the problem for good. He replaced a portion of the pipe and cleared the rest out so water was flowing freely but did not fill in the hole.
"The rest of the pipe is still good but I want to replace it too," he said on Thursday. "I want to be sure when I fill in the hole it won't collapse and cause problems again."
North Carolina Department of Transportation (DOT) official Mark Stafford, though, thinks the drain lines could be causing problems again anyway. The DOT brought in pumps to divert water around the sinkhole after collecting ponds and pipes upstream from the sinkhole began filling up and clogging up after the heavy rains on July 27.
"Right now we are still assessing what the problem is," said Stafford. Mayor Wright says the concern on the city's part is that the sinkhole will fill up and flood highway 70, as it did 11 years ago, though admitted that has not happened, even during recent heavy rains.
"I wish we could get this whole situation resolved," he said. Mason said he wants to finish the job but blames the slow economy on why it has taken so long. "I've spent a half million dollars of my own money so far and it'll cost that again to finish up."
Mason hopes to turn the property into a car wash business "So I can get some return on my investment." No timetable has been set to get the work done.
City officials say they will continue to monitor the situation.