Paso Robles Library/City Hall sinkhole fix could go out to bid soon

The next step in getting a permanent fix for the almost 6-year-old gaping pit in the Paso Robles Library/City Hall parking lot could be just weeks away.

A proposal to pave over the sulfur spring that erupted during the 2003 San Simeon Earthquake, and to install a permanent system to carry the hot spring water back to where it can percolate into the ground, could go out to bid this month, Assistant City Manager Meg Williamson said.

A temporary fix has been in place since soon after the 6.6-magnitude quake to keep the sulfur-rich water away from the surface, but its potent rotten-egg smell often hangs in the air of downtown.

Construction could begin in early 2010, officials said, and if weather allows and there are no other unforeseen problems, everything could be done by Nov. 5, 2010.

As proposed, the permanent fix includes catching the water from its source in an underground vault and sending it through pipes to a leach field on city-owned property near the Salinas River, Public Works Director Doug Monn said. There, the plan is for it to percolate into the soil.

Almost a year ago, the City Council voted to forgo a full environmental impact report on the diversion plan.

“Because it is spring water, the Regional Water Quality Control Board has determined and provided the city with a letter stating ... that the spring water would not be subject to review by the board and may be leached into the ground. ...” Monn said.

The process will also cool the water so it won’t harm wildlife or vegetation, Williamson added. She said city officials will mitigate any situations where the work might bother migrating fish or birds possibly nesting near the riverbed.

The city anticipates much of the estimated$2 million-plus project will be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

San Luis Obispo County continues to recover from the quake that struck Dec. 22, 2003. The two deaths that occurred in the San Simeon Earthquake happened across the downtown park from City Hall.

Two women died when the old unreinforced masonry Acorn Building at 12th and Park streets collapsed. A rebuilt version of the Acorn Building has replaced the fallen structure, and several other downtown businesses have been rebuilt, moved, or reopened.

More recent fixes included the $2.5 million restoration and retrofit of the Carnegie Library in Downtown City Park — that work was completed in February, and the building reopened Sunday — and the $15.2 million rebuilding of Flamson Middle School’s main building, which is slated to open after winter break.

In Atascadero, the historic City Hall still stands but remains empty as the city lobbies FEMA for the millions more needed for its repair.

Mission San Miguel was severely damaged, but the church opened for a dedication Tuesday night, and a grand opening is planned for 10 a.m. on Friday.