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Winter Park Sliding Away

Tarps cover the hillside on Tuesday, May 23, 2017, above the homes on Winter Park Court in the Winter Valley subdivision in Fenton. The hillside has been sliding towards the homes at the bottom of the hill. Work is being done to try and stop the hill from sliding further. Photo by J.B. Forbes, jforbes@post-dispatch.com

Editor's note: Fewer than 20 homes in the 514-home Winter Valley subdivision in Jefferson County are in the immediate vicinity of a hillside undermined by recent rainfall, according to an attorney for the subdivision. The story published in the Wednesday edition of the Post-Dispatch was unclear about the number of homes at risk.

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Three weeks after torrential rain triggered a landslide that displaced occupants of one home, residents of a Jefferson County subdivision are still facing far more questions than answers about what will be done to permanently stabilize the hillside — and how it will be paid for.

Officially there are not even clear options on the table about how to proceed. Managers and lawyers representing the 514-home Winter Valley subdivision met Tuesday with a crowd of nearly 100 people at the headquarters of the Saline Valley Fire Protection District in Fenton.

Tom Reina, a manager from Community Managers Associates, said that county officials are still taking measurements of the hillside to guide any engineered solutions. But Reina did describe construction of a rock dike or retention wall as a potential remedy commonly used in similar situations.

To fix the “slope slip” that struck Winter Valley on May 4, such a structure may need to be at least 200-300 feet long and could need to extend 25 feet or so to reach stable bedrock. Residents worry about how to pay for a project of that scale.

“That’s not hundreds of thousands of dollars, that’s millions of dollars,” said Larry Dean, a Winter Valley resident and a former board member for the subdivision. “This is just going to cost a lot more money than anybody in the subdivision is beginning to understand.”

Reina said taking out loans could be one way for the unincorporated subdivision to gather funding. He said that only about $200,000 was currently in Winter Valley’s accounts.

“We have enough to get started on this project, but we don’t suspect that will be enough,” he said.

Jessica Mikale, an attorney representing the subdivision from Wegmann Law Firm, said regular or special assessments were another potential mechanism to pay for a solution, along with “other determinations of liability” for the slide.

Besides covering the cost of fixing the scarred hillside, residents also worry about future recurrences, noting that this is the third such slide the subdivision has seen in the last 20 years.

“How many other hills are getting ready to go?” asked Dean. “They’re all the same age. They all got the same 15 inches of water.”

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