Patterson Park resident calls for help as hole grows in sidewalk

The problem: A hole formed at a corner storm drain near Patterson Park despite calls for help.

The back story: This week's Watchdog features a problem that may be a familiar sight to Baltimore residents.

Cheryl Shiflett called to complain about a storm drain at Eastern Avenue and South Glover Street. Several months ago, she and other neighborhood residents noticed that the manhole and curb were crumbling.

"The curb started to fall off, and cars of course were hitting that," Shiflett said.

The deterioration continued until a hole formed, even as Shiflett said she called 311 three times and also reported it through the 311 system online.

Someone - probably a city worker, Shiflett believes - did put an official warning sign on top of the hole.

"That was there for weeks," she said. "No one came out and did anything."

Then the sign got knocked down during the Dec. 19 snowstorm. The snow covered both the fallen sign and the hole, so someone stuck a two-by-four into it to prevent a nasty surprise for pedestrians.

"We were truly concerned that someone was going to get hurt," Shiflett said. "It's a high-traffic area, Eastern Avenue. We were afraid someone was going to fall into it."

After a call last week, Baltimore's Department of Public Works pledged to take action. The department has been working to eliminate this particular type of storm drain, said Kurt Kocher, a spokesman for the agency.

"As you can see, there is little to support this if undue weight is placed upon it," he said, adding that if trucks make a tight turn around a corner and a wheel goes over the curb, the concrete can collapse.

Some such storm drains have been reinforced. Still, there are an estimated 33,000 storm drains in the city, Kocher said, and DPW relies on residents to report problems.

The director of public works, David Scott, recently asked other city agencies that regularly send workers into the field to keep an eye out for damaged storm drains and to report them to 311, Kocher said.

"There's a lot of city employees on the road besides us," the spokesman said.

But there is limited money to make all of the necessary repairs. Aging storm drains need to be refurbished to prevent collapse, but the state motor vehicle money that traditionally funds such work has dried up, Kocher said.

Who can fix this: David Watts, chief of maintenance, Baltimore Department of Public Works, 410-396-7870. City residents should call 311 to report problems or submit service requests to the 311 online system at