After the evacuation of Building M, many are wondering what has happened behind the scenes during the past six weeks. The recommendation from the geotechnical engineers was to immediately remove the north building of Knights Inn hotel and construct a large berm of compacted earth at the base of the hill where the hotel now stands and also in the parking lot behind the Dairy Queen. Picture an ice cream scoop where a bite has been taken out of the front of the scoop... the weight of the remaining ice cream tends to slide down to take it's place. By placing dirt, and we're talking A LOT OF DIRT (600 truck loads), at the toe of the slide, the extra weight is expected to dramatically slow the movement of the slide.
After six weeks of meetings, emails, and discussions to resolve legal and practical issues, draft agreements with the various property owners, obtain easements, etc. we are just now thinking that it might possibly happen. Bids were recently obtained from several excavation contractors and the cost of demolition and building the berm exceeded $100,000. The City of St. George has been very helpful in trying to reduce this cost and may even agree to help loan some of the funds to accomplish the demolition.
The City has decided it may be best for them to take charge of the demolition portion of the job to save money and seek repayment from the property owners involved through property taxes. It has been decided to tear down at least the south half of Building L in addition to the hotel building. A structural engineer from Las Vegas was hired by Gardens South last week to inspect the north half of Bldg. L and he determined that the building is still structurally sound and could be repaired. The city building dept. is in the process of making their own inspection this week and will decide if they agree with the engineers observations. Tearing down any or all of the condominium buildings will do nothing to slow the movement of the landslide as the weight of the buildings is nothing compared to the total weight of the saturated earth that is actually causing the earth to move.
A temporary water line has been connected to service Building N and will need to be either buried or somehow freeze protected (sand bags?) before winter sets in. A major concern is whether or not the slide has damaged the main sewer line that services not only Buildings N, M, & L but also service the upper tiered buildings including P & Q. If the sewer is damaged, this will be a major expense to repair and will delay the occupancy of M and L owners. The other utilities (gas, electric, water, phone, and cable) are relatively secure and easily re-connected to Building M.
Assuming the legal and financial issues can be resolved soon, the demolition and construction of the berm will the first physical attempt to slow the landslide and attempt to halt the damages to property. It will take several months of observation to determine if the earthen berm is successful in halting the slide. This is viewed as a temporary, stop gap measure and is not expected to be the ultimate solution. However, if it appears that the slide has stopped as a result of the berm construction, we will approach the city to inspect the facilities and re-attach utilities to allow residents of M to re-occupy their homes. Realistically, this will not happen until sometime next year. Owners who wish to enter their homes in the meantime to remove personal possessions must obtain permission from the city building department to do so. The city and HOA are concerned about the safety issues of condemned buildings and will not be responsible if anyone is hurt as a result of trespassing or entering Buildings L and M.