Calhoun-area fire station fights to stop sinking

The driveway and front stoop leading to Fire Station 22 are sinking -- so much that pavement next to the door dropped more than six inches, making a step where there was no step before.

The sinking has created handicap-accessibility and other problems.

A decorative brick wall bordering the stoop has pulled away from the building. The driveway had sunk so much that last year the city mudjacked it -- pumping mud underneath the surface to force the driveway back up. Caulk-like goo fills a wide crack where the driveway and garage have separated.

The city built Station 22, 3250 Market Plaza, in 1993, said Steve Kotke, director of property and equipment services for the Minneapolis Public Works Department. The soils report said the property -- near Lake Calhoun -- had highly compressible peat swamp deposits as deep as 50 feet below the surface.

Builders put 90-foot steel pilings under the station, he said. The city chose not to use pilings under the driveway or front stoop because they were lighter.

"Is it a design flaw? Maybe in 20-20 hindsight," Kotke said. "There are a lot of judgment calls."

He said those working on the project had to weigh whether the city would pay for pilings it did not need.

The city has made minor repairs over the years, including asphalt patching. The cost of the next fix is not known, he said. Public Works staff is reviewing alternatives, from adding pilings under the driveway and stoop to simply rebuilding the sidewalk every so often, he said.

The city has roughly $50,000 earmarked for the repairs, money remaining from constructing Station 22 and three others built at the same time.

"The solution is going to have to fit within our budget," Kotke said.