Editorial: Cutting the Gordian knot

  • Thursday, April 19, 2012

Back in the really old days, Alexander of Macedonia wanted to follow in his fatherís footsteps as king. An oracle had foretold that he who was able to unravel the Gordian knot would rule the world.

The knot, so large and intricately woven that no one had been able to figure out how to untie it, had been a long-standing puzzle that befuddled many. When Alexander visited a shrine and saw the knot, he at first tried to follow the pathways of the rope. But then, he took his sword, cleft the knot in two and went on to rule the known world.

We donít know that thereís an actual knot keeping todayís folks befuddled, but there are certainly practices and regulations that donít seem to make a whole lot of sense that are standing in the way of a solution to Georgetownís sinkhole problems.

Regardless of who did or didnít do what, thereís a knotty problem of businesses and homes and buildings that have been damaged by the multitude of sinkholes that developed in Georgetown last fall.

The UPS Store was the first known casualty, with a corner of it collapsing into a sinkhole. Thatís been the most traumatic, but the rest of the Parrish Place complex is unusable, Parrish Motors, the Georgetown City Fire Station, at least one gas station, Bank of America, Samís Office Supply, the $20 million Georgetown County Judicial Center, the county library and others have known cracks in their buildings. Sinkholes have developed in streets, yards and parking lots. The $14 million city drainage project was halted, dewatering stopped and thousands of citizens have been inconvenienced.

Building owners Ė through no fault of their own Ė have had to move. Others have empty buildings they canít rent out because of the fear of the unknown about sinkholes, drainage concerns and more.

The City of Georgetown and the South Carolina Department of Transportation hired an engineering firm that recommended the dewatering process. Many people believe the dewatering -- or pumping millions of gallons of water from below the surface -- is the primary cause of the sinkholes.

No one has publicly accepted responsibility.

Meanwhile, thereís the knotty problem of the businesses and homes that are considered unsafe. Jobs are lost, and so far no one seems to do anything.

Why not follow Alexander the Greatís example?

Cut the hopelessly complex Gordian knot of regulations. Call in an outside arbitrator to hear the concerns of the businesses. Listen to the engineers, the City of Georgetown, Georgetown County and S.C. DOT officials, and then arrive at fair, just compensation for the innocent home- and business-owners.

We call on these local officials, the Georgetown County Legislative Delegation, Congressional Delegation and state and federal officials to work together to make this happen.

Do whatís right for these businesses that have been harmed by others. They really should not have to go to court, wait years for a decision, and then see at least a third of some possible future damage assessment go into the sinkhole of attorneysí fees.

Cut the knot Ė now.

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