Wednesday, November 21, 2012
It was one year ago tomorrow the ground opened up and caused the collapse of the successful business Tony Jordan had built at the corner of Highway 17 and Prince Street in Georgetown.
The building, known as Parrish Place, housed The UPS Store — owned and operated at the time by Jordan and his wife, Debbie — as well as other businesses.
The destruction took place about three weeks after a large sinkhole formed in the parking lot next to the building. Other, smaller sinkholes formed in other places within and near the same block.
At the time — as part of the drainage project which is still taking place in that area — water was being removed from underneath the ground at a rate of 60,000 gallons per hour.
At the time, Jordan said he was thankful the collapse took place late at night because no one was inside the building when it occurred.
Parrish Place was not the only building damaged — although it was the most extensive. Several buildings in the area were determined to be unsafe to occupy.
Landy’s Cleaners — which was located across Highway 17 from Parrish Place — was forced to close because of damage. It has not relocated.
Bank of America on Highmarket Street was forced out of its building and is still operating out of a mobile unit on the same property.
Damage was also found in other buildings such as the Georgetown County Judicial Center, the Georgetown County Library, Waccamaw Regional Council of Governments and the Citgo gas station on Highway 17.
Those buildings have since been deemed safe to occupy.
UPS sold and relocated
In the year since the tragedy occurred, Jordan has sold The UPS Store, which has relocated to Highmarket Street next to McDonalds.
The store — now owned by Tom Foltz and his wife Carlan — reopened last week.
Jordan said he intended to keep the store and reopen in a building he owns on Highmarket Street which, until the sinkholes, housed his Allstate Insurance franchise. However, that building was also damaged by the sinkholes and has still not been deemed safe to occupy.
Also, Jordan’s wife got sick within the past few months.
Jordan said Foltz, who owns a UPS store in Myrtle Beach, approached him about purchasing the store.
“Since we could not relocate to the building we own, we decided it was best to sell. We helped him find the location,” Jordan said.
Foltz said the new, 1,700 square-foot store offers the same services as the previous location.
“I am tickled to death with the location and I love the Georgetown marketplace,” Foltz said.
Still waiting for answers
Even though Jordan has had Parrish Place removed and what remains is an empty, grassy lot — the South Carolina Department of Transportation, in charge of the drainage project, still has not issued a report on the cause of the sinkholes.
Jordan did have insurance that covered some of the costs associated with the removal of the building, he has had a lot of out-of-pocket expenses.
“We have yet to hear anything from the DOT. Nobody is claiming responsibility for what happened,” Jordan said.
He said he was told months ago an outside firm, FM&E, was hired to try to determine the sinkhole cause. The DOT, Jordan said, also hired an attorney — Lisa Reynolds of Charleston — to represent the agency in this situation.
Jordan said FM&E began working in January and completed its investigation in April but no one impacted by the sinkholes has heard anything from the DOT.
“We are all being forced to litigate. I have never sued anyone in my life and I don’t want to do it now but it seems that is how the system works,” Jordan said.
The business owners are not the only ones hitting brick walls when trying to get information about the status of the investigation.
The Georgetown Times contacted Reynolds Wednesday seeking answers. On Thursday she called back saying any questions about the sinkholes need to be referred to Lindsay Kremlick, spokeswoman for the state Budget and Control Board.
Thursday afternoon, Kremlick said any questions need to be submitted in writing, which will be done for a future story.
Carey Smith, the City of Georgetown’s interim administrator, said the city is also waiting for the report.
“We have inquired. I guess we will just have to wait. When it comes, it comes,” Smith said.
By Scott Harper
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