MOUNT VERNON — The city Street Department finally opened up Gay Street between Pleasant and Burgess streets, to see what was causing the dip that appeared in the road this winter.
According to Street Superintendent Tom Hinkle and City Engineer Brian Ball, they found old cisterns that were apparently used to store water used by the old fire companies in the 19th century to fight fires.
Ball said the location of the units appears on old insurance maps from the 1880s, but with no details about the size. He said there appears to be at least three “cells.”
Hinkle said that at some time in the past, the cistern may have been filled in and the ground leveled out above it before a concrete cap was poured on top. The street bricks were laid on top of the concrete.
The fill beneath the concrete either settled or washed out, and the concrete began breaking up after the top of the cistern also collapsed.
Ball said that before they can fix the problem they need to know if any pipes run into the cisterns and how far up and down the street they extend.
Hinkle said there was a good chance the street would have to remain closed for the weekend, but they wouldn’t know until they determined the extent of the cisterns.
Ball said if they can, they will fill the space with a special light concrete that compacts and will form a solid base, but which can be dug out if needed.