Mike McKibbin

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October 24, 2012
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Disappearing yard: Woman frustrated with officials

Janet Ketelsleger has watched her property sink into the ground for the last year.

A large sinkhole has swallowed a corner of her backyard at 15 Shotgun Drive in Rifle Village South.

The subdivision on the south side of the Colorado River and I-70 sits on soils that were so unstable, Ketelsleger said, that Garfield County sent a letter to subdivision residents in 1987 that warned of unstable soils leading to sinkholes.

Yet, in 1997, Ketelsleger said, the county approved the addition of several homes, including Ketelsleger's. She bought the home in 2003, before sinkholes appeared.

"Now here we are," Ketelsleger said. "I don't want to sell, and who's going to want to buy a house with a hole in the back yard?"

The sinkhole is more than 15 feet deep, one of several that have appeared in various areas of the subdivision, mainly around the intersection of Shotgun and Colt drives. That's where both streets drain, down a ditch that leads to Ketelsleger's sinkhole, according to a survey by HP Geotech of Glenwood Springs, then down over a ridge toward Lake Toueye, a recreational amenity of the Lake Toueye Water Ski Club.

When the streets in front of Ketelsleger's home were added, the drainage saturated the soils and led to the sinkhole, she said.

Since then, Ketelsleger has pleaded with the county attorney, county manager, met with road and bridge and other department heads, but said she has met nothing but roadblocks.

In the past, then-county attorney Andrew Gorgey said he could not find any proof the county owned the land where the sinkhole has appeared.

"The county says it isn't on the tax rolls, so they're not responsible," Ketelsleger said. "But I don't think I should have to pay [to fill in the sinkhole]. The county has the resources and they approved the homes."

Ketelsleger said her two children rode their bikes and hunted for Easter eggs on the parcel that has sunk into the ground.

Steve Campbell, one of the owners of the ski club and the lake, said the club itself repaired a sink hole on their property in 2004.

"It was along the same drainage ditch," Campbell said. "We had been at odds with the county, just like Janet is now. It was three times larger than hers. We drove an excavator and dump truck into it."

Eventually, Campbell said he and his partner grew tired of the process and decided to fix it themselves.

"The ground around here is like Swiss cheese," Campbell said. "When they allowed the houses east of Janet's house to be built, the drainage increased and ran right down that ditch."

Campbell said he and his partner have offered to giver Ketelsleger the material to fill in her sinkhole.

"She would have to get someone with an excavator, but she would rather see Garfield County take responsibility, I guess," Campbell said. "I can agree with that, we tried to get them to help us. But they ignored us, too."

Rifle Village South, first proposed in 1964 and developed by Larry Bradley, has no homeowners association to turn to for help, Ketelsleger said. A local improvement district was formed to pay for the streets at the time the homes were built, Ketelsleger added.

Commissioner Mike Samson visited Ketelsleger's home in the recent past, and said mistakes were made, the homes should not have been built, she said.

Her quest for a solution will return to the county commissioners on Nov. 5, when she's scheduled to again try to get some help.

"I'm a fighter," Ketelsleger said. "If the commissioners don't help me or compromise, people say I should sue. But I can't afford that."

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The Post Independent Updated Oct 24, 2012 06:05PM Published Oct 24, 2012 06:02PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.