Thursday, December 14, 2017
News Roundup

Pasco sinkhole debate: How much? Who pays?

LAND O’LAKES — They came armed with questions, but left without answers to the biggest unknowns.

How much will this cost?

And who’s going to pay?

More than 145 people filled a Land O’Lakes Community Center meeting room Saturday afternoon to try to find out how Pasco County might repair a massive sinkhole in the Lake Padgett Estates neighborhood. The cavity, originally estimated at 230 feet wide and 50 feet deep, swallowed two homes and left seven more uninhabitable after it opened July 14 on Ocean Pines Drive.

Pasco commissioners already panned two ideas as too expensive. Grouting the hole and restoring the site to its previous condition for use as a passive recreation park carried an estimated price tag of $8 million to $12 million, and building a bridge over the sinkhole could cost up to $4 million.

That left the public with fewer options to consider, including leaving Ocean Pines Drive closed and installing a $50,000 decorative fence around the unrepaired hole or buying at least two condemned houses and connecting the hole to nearby Lake Saxon at a cost of $800,000. However, the county, under that option, also must build two cul-de-sacs to maintain traffic flow, adding an additional expense of $1.7 million.

Lastly, the county could install sheet metal pilings on both sides of Ocean Pine Drive, effectively damming the sinkhole water and rebuilding the residential street between the pilings. The estimated cost of that is $800,000

"The county is responsible for the road, therefore the county fixes the road. It’s the cheapest, most obvious and most beneficial,’’ Charlie Venator, who lives on Ocean Piines Drive, nine houses from the sinkhole, said of the last option.

Kevin Guthrie, assistant county administrator for public safety, initially said he intended to poll the audience on its preference, but retreated from that idea after speakers said they needed more information.

"I am being ambiguous,’’ Guthrie said, "because I don’t know.’’

Among the audience questions aimed at Guthrie: Is there a timeline for a fix? Are the affected homeowners cooperating? Why is the most expensive option off the table? Is grant funding available? How much liability is the county going to take? Shouldn’t landlords be required to notify tenants if rental property contains an unrepaired sinkhole? And, most notably, how can we tell you our preference for a repair when we have so few facts?

"I question the wisdom of putting us on the spot,’’ said Diane Clark, who owns home on Panther Way. "We’re operating in a sea of ignorance for all of us.’’

Guthrie said more geo-technical studies must be completed before the county can determine the viability of the potential repairs. He also promised a future community meeting, possibly in January, after that information is available.

The county invited to the meeting all of the 1,045 property owners in the Lake Padgett Estates special taxing district. However, at least one resident suggested the decision should be more localized.

"I would not presume to decide something for the people on Ocean Pines,’’ said Barbara Spencer, who said she lived about a 1.5 miles from the sinkhole.

In answering audience inquiries, Guthrie said he had asked both state and federal representatives to consider legislation requiring landlords to disclose sinkholes to renters, much like they must do with flood risks. The county does not yet have a timeline for a potential fix, he said, and cannot seek financial assistance from the state because it doesn’t yet know the preferred option or cost. He also pointed out that the county’s participation is limited.

"We have a responsibility to rebuild that road,’’ he said, but the county is not responsible for repairs on private property. He also said the county currently has reports of about a dozen other active sinkholes around Pasco, all on private property.

"If we spend one taxpayer dollar on (private property in) Lake Padgett Estates,’’ Guthrie said, "then we have to do all of them.’’

Comments

Lottery resultsNumbers drawn after 9 p.m. are no longer available by our deadlines. For results, please go to tampabay.com/lottery.Pick 2, 3, 4, 5Wed., Dec. 13, midday:53 738 7036e_SRit10321Wed., Dec. 13, evening:57 775 2681e_SRit55890LottoWed., Dec....
Updated: 2 hours ago

Winter meetings journal: Rays trade for money to sign top international free agent

LAKE BUENA VISTA — While most of the business conducted at the meetings impacts the big-league team one way or another, the Rays are working to finalize a move they hope pays off big sometime in the 2020s.In trading Wednesday to acquire $1 million in...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Market starting to set itself as Rays’ trade talks intensify

Market starting to set itself as Rays’ trade talks intensify

LAKE BUENA VISTA — Alex Colome claimed he was just showing good social media manners Tuesday night in following four Cardinals-related Instagram accounts since they were saying nice things about him.In doing so, whether for that reason or another mor...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Senate race motivated Alabama’s white, black evangelical voters in different ways

Senate race motivated Alabama’s white, black evangelical voters in different ways

Nationally, the word "evangelical" has become in recent years nearly synonymous with "conservative Republican" and Alabama is one of the most evangelical states in the country. But in Alabama, there is a difference: black Christians.While in many par...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Gators crash volleyball power party, play national semifinal Thursday

Gators crash volleyball power party, play national semifinal Thursday

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It’s difficult to call a volleyball program that has been to the Final Four eight times an underdog, especially the way Florida rallied to beat Southern California and punch its latest ticket. Yet of the four schools descending on ...
Updated: 3 hours ago

High school scoreboard for Dec. 13

Wednesday’s scoreboardGirls soccerCountryside 3, St. Petersburg 1Girls basketballPalm Harbor U. 42, Largo 25
Updated: 3 hours ago
Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith named to fill Franken seat

Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith named to fill Franken seat

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton appointed Lt. Gov. Tina Smith on Wednesday to fill fellow Democrat Al Franken’s Senate seat until a special election in November, setting up his longtime and trusted adviser for a potentially bruising 2018...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Florida Toys for Tots charity raffles off AR-15 rifle. Gun debate ensues.

Florida Toys for Tots charity raffles off AR-15 rifle. Gun debate ensues.

SPRING HILL — Hernando County Commission Vice Chairman Steve Champion wanted to do something to help raise money for the annual Toys for Tots drive. So he donated the grand prize for the Nov. 18 raffle:It was an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle.That led to ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Thefts from cell towers interrupted service, deputies say

Thefts from cell towers interrupted service, deputies say

Lost cell signal recently? The culprit could be a 40-year-old Ruskin man who deputies said stole thousands of dollars worth of the equipment that powers cell towers. The theft interrupted cell tower signals on at least two occasions, deputies said, i...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Foot washes ashore in Canada, again; Abbas wants U.S. out as Mideast mediator; 12 sentenced to life for gang-raping kids; more in world news

Foot washes ashore in Canada, again; Abbas wants U.S. out as Mideast mediator; 12 sentenced to life for gang-raping kids; more in world news

CanadaJust another foot washing ashoreAnother human foot has been found on British Columbia’s coastline, the 13th such grim discovery since 2007. Police said a man was walking on the beach in Jordan River on Vancouver Island when his dog found the fo...
Updated: 4 hours ago