Underground vaults pose problem for Scranton business owners

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SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Some property owners in Scranton will soon be getting a letter from city officials asking to find any vaults under sidewalks, this comes after two vaults located under the sidewalk were deemed unsafe in the downtown area.

Mayor Paige Cognetti of Scranton tells Eyewitness News the sidewalks are safe throughout the city, but she wants to make sure no more vaults are deemed hazardous.

Dominic Santiago walks city sidewalks every day and says he never thought something would be hidden beneath his feet. “Seeing now at levels it’s impressive that there was something underneath, you know, where we use to drink and party and stuff,” says Santiago

“I’m just grateful it hasn’t fallen in. And for pedestrians walking by, you know, it makes me wonder if there are anything else,” said Santiago.

“It has to be taken care of because if it doesn’t somebody could be standing there, and the ground could give in. It’s a big problem,” says Billy Noland of Scranton. 

Collapsed sidewalks caused by deteriorating vaults are not common but have happened in the electric city.

In 2016 the vault under Smoker House and More collapsed. City officials continue to be proactive to make sure this does not happen.

“City of Scranton is not alone in having these vault structures,” says Mayor Paige Cognetti, “Having these legacy vaults underneath sidewalks, New York City and other places have those infrastructures built. But we want to be proactive as we go forward and make sure we are doing everything we can.”

Mayor Paige Cognetti says the city’s planning and zoning department will be sending out letters to downtown property owners for inspectors to look in basements for vaults.

“We don’t have an accounting of where all the vaults are. So, we want to make sure that we can take a survey basically of that,” says Mayor Cognetti

Mayor Cognetti tells Eyewitness News the planning and zoning department is working on the letters now and will be sent to property owners this week or early next week.

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