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Homeowner wants more communication about sinkholes from Hall
James Gilmer looks Monday at a sinkhole on the edge of his property on Mill Street in Milliken Mill Village northeast of Gainesville.

Hall County may have to file a claim with its insurance company to pay for stormwater drainage system repair and sinkholes that have riddled some properties in the Milliken Mill Village neighborhood.

Geoffrey Archibald’s house on Mill Street in the New Holland area was burned in an electrical fire in January. He’s spent $176,000 to rebuild the house, but he has about five sinkholes on his property, which he said he didn’t know about before he started rebuilding. He has spent about $2,700 in landscaping and grading so the water running across his property flows downward and is diverted away from the house. He said he’s concerned the existing sinkholes are worsening and will damage the foundation.

“I guess I just kind of expected one of the county people would take more deliberate action more quickly,” Archibald said. “(I expected they) would tell us what’s going on.”

The stormwater management system is about 100 years old, and the infrastructure is crumbling. Frequent storms this spring and summer made the problem worse, residents said.

“It seems like the county should at lease donate sandbags,” the homeowner said.

Communication with his attorney, Wesley Robinson of Hulsey, Oliver & Mahar LLP, may be Archibald’s only line of information on the situation. Robinson emailed Archibald on Monday that a representative of Travelers Insurance called Friday. The lawyer’s email said the insurance company representative said it insures the county and had received notice “of the claim and that they would be back in touch.”

Commissioner Jeff Stowe, who brought up the concern at a Hall County Board of Commissioners meeting in August, said county officials were advised not to comment on the issue because of potential litigation.

While Robinson’s letter demanded the county address the soil erosion and sinkholes on Archibald’s property within 10 days, it doesn’t mention litigation or the legal words “ante litem.” Ante litem is a legal term to describe a notice of a potential claim prior to filing of the lawsuit or claim. Georgia law requires notice be given to a county within a 12-month statutory period.

Archibald and his neighbor James Gilmer, who also has sinkholes, said they’ve heard nothing from the county or the city on the issue since. Gainesville has facilities including the New Holland Core Knowledge Academy and an office park that sit above the county neighborhood.

Ken Rearden, Hall County Public Works director, said his staff made a request to Gainesville to check the drainage from those developments a few days after the commission discussed it at the end of August.

Stan Aiken, senior civil engineer with the Gainesville Public Works Department, said the city’s detention ponds did not contribute to the Milliken Mill Village stormwater drainage issues. The city inspected all the ponds in April, he said.

In the mid-1950s, Milliken and Co., which still manufactures in Gainesville, dedicated the roads to the county and the water and sewer systems to the city. Rearden said in August there’s no record of the company dedicating the stormwater system.

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