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Carbon project raises concern

Published March 29. 2019 12:51PM

A former Jim Thorpe business owner questioned the Carbon County commissioners on the science behind determining the makeup of the mountain that needs to be removed to make way for a new county building.

On Thursday, Mark Reitz of Jim Thorpe, who used to co-own the Hotel Switzerland until selling it to the Behans in 1999, brought a comprehensive soil survey created by his father while working for the county years ago and questioned how the commissioners could guarantee figures determining the rock size that St. Mark’s and St. John’s Episcopal Church was built into won’t be off slightly.

“The church is built into rock. It is part of the rock,” Reitz said, outlining a few other areas along High and Race streets where the mountain has crumbled over the years. “The mountain is pushing.”

He said that with all the tests to determine the soils, bulk density of the soil, core samples and aerial photography to determine just how big the rock is that the church sits on, still has a small window for error because engineers can’t see just how large the rock is no matter how many tests are done to measure its size.

“If you hit the rock, then you break the Tiffany windows,” he said. “Geological science is a science but not a complete science. You undervalue the value of that church. It’s the jewel of the town and you’re not carrying enough insurance. Sometimes people can be wrong.”

The Susquehanna Street project has been a point of contention for months, pitting the county against the townspeople, specifically supporters of St. Mark’s and St. John’s church, over the proposed construction, which calls for removing 40 feet of rock from the base of the mountain that the church is built on to accommodate the two-story parking garage and third floor court office space.

The church recently sued the borough of Jim Thorpe in the hopes of reversing council’s conditional approval of the project.

No date on when the demolition of the former archives/maintenance building, which is located on the site of the new building, has been set, officials said.

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