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updated: 9/16/2012 6:40 AM

Who's to blame for East Dundee sinkhole?

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  • The asphalt in front of Dundee Automotive has buckled more than five inches in the last few days. Employees spray painted the crack when it was even.

       The asphalt in front of Dundee Automotive has buckled more than five inches in the last few days. Employees spray painted the crack when it was even.
    Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

  • Buckling pavement and a large sinkhole are creating major problems for owner Randy Klemm at Dundee Automotive.

       Buckling pavement and a large sinkhole are creating major problems for owner Randy Klemm at Dundee Automotive.
    Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

  • With the pavement buckling in front of the service bays, bags of construction materials had to be placed beneath the drop off so cars wouldn't bottom out going in and out of the garage bays.

       With the pavement buckling in front of the service bays, bags of construction materials had to be placed beneath the drop off so cars wouldn't bottom out going in and out of the garage bays.
    Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

  • Dundee Automotive owner Randy Klemm believes that a broken water pipe beneath the parking lot in front of the East Dundee business is causing the parking lot to collapse. Here, Klemm pokes a screwdriver, which is more than a foot long, into a hole beneath the buckling asphalt.

       Dundee Automotive owner Randy Klemm believes that a broken water pipe beneath the parking lot in front of the East Dundee business is causing the parking lot to collapse. Here, Klemm pokes a screwdriver, which is more than a foot long, into a hole beneath the buckling asphalt.
    Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

 
 

It started innocently enough at Dundee Automotive with a small dip in the parking lot eight weeks ago.

But it since has developed into heaving pavement and a large sinkhole that threatens to pull the East Dundee mechanic shop down with it, owner Randy Klemm said.

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Klemm suspects that an old pipe that once connected the area to a spring is under his parking lot and is to blame for his situation.

He has notified both East Dundee and West Dundee of the situation and filed a claim with the Illinois Department of Transportation, which owns the right of way in front of his shop at Route 72 near Route 68.

Officials from neither town are taking responsibility for what's happened. An IDOT spokesman said Klemm can expect to get a response from the agency within 160 days.

That, Klemm said, is not good enough.

"I need something yesterday," he said. "I can't plow the parking lot. Five months from now isn't going to do me any good. It's going to be sunny again."

Besides, it's not just his parking lot that is showing signs of distress. The front windows on his shop are starting to loosen.

Klemm's theory is that water coming out of a broken pipe produces a suction that's pulling everything down.

Next door, Gary Muscat owns the pawnshop and a vacant storefront. His property has experienced damage, but on a much smaller scale.

His concrete retaining wall has been cracked, a few other parts of his lot have fallen and the fence that separates Muscat's property from Klemm's appears to sinking.

At Dundee Automotive, some of the cracks near the second garage bay have deepened to the point that mechanics couldn't move cars out in and out of it until Klemm evened out the terrain with sandbags.

Other cracks have split parts of the uneven parking lot in two, where one part is several inches higher than another piece. Elsewhere, several cones block off a larger depressed area.

Two customers already have fallen in the parking lot and sustained minor injuries. Klemm said he also fell down, hurt his neck and shoulder and later went to the hospital because he was experiencing vertigo.

Nobody is claiming responsibility for the damage.

Klemm estimates it will cost him $100,000 to fix his land and the pipe -- money he doesn't have.

He also said he shouldn't be on the hook for any of this mess, because the pipe isn't his.

West Dundee used to own several parcels in East Dundee near Klemm's shop that were part of an original water system that once served the area, West Dundee Village Manager Joe Cavallaro said.

About 20 years ago, the village sold those properties off, but Cavallaro doesn't know where the pipes were located.

"It seems like they'd be private property issues now because once you transfer property, you own what's above and below," he said.

East Dundee Village Administrator Bob Skurla also cited the private property argument and said IDOT could be another avenue, since it owns the right of way in front of Klemm's property.

Skurla added that nobody will know how to help unless someone starts digging.

"Unfortunately, it could be that the culprit could be maybe nature -- it's called an act of God," Skurla said. "If there is a human that's responsible, it's kind of hard to identify who that person is, unless somebody takes it upon themselves to excavate."

Klemm hopes to start excavating later on this week on Muscat's property. He will go from there if he discovers a pipe.

"Then we'll call (West Dundee) and say, 'Oh, well, we found your pipe, here it is,'" Klemm said. "'What do you want to do about it?'"

Sinkhole: Village says it might be a private property issue

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