Mooresville town officials are finalizing plans to purchase property along Highway 150 where the formation of a sinkhole forced a long-time auto repair shop to close.

A damaged stormwater pipe collapsed on the former site of Tire Masters, causing coal ash to seep into an underground tributary that feeds into Lake Norman.

During a press conference Thursday afternoon, Mayor Chris Carney explained that town commissioners agreed unanimously to take control of the cleanup because it is the right thing to do.

“This is a great movement forward,” he said.

The town has submitted a letter of intent to purchase the property from the Medford family. Terms of the sale will not be made public until a contract is signed, the mayor said.

Repairing the broken stormwater pipe and filling the sinkhole, which Carney estimated measures 40 feet in diameter, will take about three months. Work could begin this summer and be completed by the fall.

In an interview, Carney estimated the cleanup cost at between $1 million and $2 million, but he stressed that taxpayer money will not be spent on the project. (That estimate does not include the cost of the Medford property.)

The town has been awarded a state grant that can be used for stormwater improvements, including this project, and town staff is pursuing additional federal funding opportunities.

Duke Energy has committed to helping with the project and is committed to keeping coal ash out of the stream, Carney said.

The stormwater pipe, which measures about 72 plus inches, was damaged when it was installed about 30 years ago by the contractor when it was hit by a backhoe, the mayor added. Town officials have been unable to determine who the contractor was.

Carney applauded the work of Town Attorney Sharon Crawford and town engineers for their work on the project. After the November election, Carney and the new town board were committed to addressing the problem.

Waiting for someone else to take action, Carney said, was not a viable option. The property owner is involved in litigation with Duke Energy.

Keeping coal ash from flowing into Lake Norman is the town’s primary concern, and eventually the sinkhole “would go all the way to Highway 150 if no one did anything,” Carney explained.

When asked if he was concerned that purchasing this property and taking responsibility for the cleanup would set a precedent for future sinkholes on private property, Carney said that could not be the driving factor in the town decisions.

“If we get worried like that, we would stop doing good things,” he said. “We’re going to concentrate on doing good things.”

Meanwhile, an attorney for the Medford family praised town leaders for stepping up.

“This has been a very difficult situation for our clients emotionally — not even talking about the financial side of things,” attorney Rick Yeoman said. “We’re really grateful for the mayor and the Town of Mooresville for working with us.”

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