Cavern deemed unchanged; street reopened

A portion of North Williams Street was closed last week amid fears that a rock ledge high above the roadway on Cliff Street was unstable.

An inspection of the area around the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, however, revealed there was no observable change in the rock and the street was reopened Thursday after the area was deemed not to be in danger of immediate collapse.

“In concern of public safety the street was closed so that we could assess the potential danger,” said Mayor Peter Telisky. “From what we found, we don’t believe there’s been a change in the rock in a long time.”

A cavern located beneath the more-than-a-century-old cannon was inspected Wednesday by a local hydrogeologist who was unable to find any evidence that the rock had shifted or that erosion had comprised the outcroppings strength.

“He crawled in the cave and looked around up top and his educated guess is that the rock hasn’t changed,” Telisky said.

He said a number of beer cans and other debris that are believed to have been left in the cavern by a local man more than 20 years are still visible, lending credence to the idea that the ground has changed very little.

Officials, however, could not guarantee the ledge is 100-percent safe.

“We can’t make an absolute prediction,” said Telisky. “It (the rock) appears the same as it’s been for years but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe. If it was a problem ten years ago then it’s still a problem. If it wasn’t a problem, then it’s still not a problem.”

Unlike the massive rock that slid onto Route 4 last October, the sheer of the rock on Cliff Street is flat and not toward the road below. The rock on Route 4 was more on a diagonal plane so that when it broke it slid in the direction of the road.

An engineer who also inspected the rock last Thursday found that the “bedding plane” was horizontal and that weight of the cannon was not overtop the cavern. He did, however, find that portions of Cliff Street needed to be addressed because the combination of erosion and traffic are threatening to cause the roadbed to slide.

On Monday village crews were taking measures to address that issue. The Department of Public Works was expected to cut out portions of pavement and put down “binder,” a base of rock and dirt, and repave the area.

It’s hoped the work will stabilize road surfaces. Several residents on the street have asked for guard rails to be installed but Don Williams, DPW superintendent, said the posts would need to be sunk three feet into the ground and there is no way to anchor them into the bedrock.

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