SPRING HILL — A month after Jim and Joan Bates' home collapsed into a 15-foot sinkhole, the couple is still trying to make the best of a bad situation.
What's left standing of their house at 2133 Orchard Park Drive will be demolished in the next few weeks, Joan Bates said Wednesday. But before then, the couple plans to salvage what they can of their belongings.
"We're going to have a sinkhole sale," she said with a laugh. "It's like a garage sale, but for people who had sinkholes."
They also have some surprises for their four-legged family members.
"We're going to bring our dogs back a few more times before it's all gone," Joan Bates said of their three dogs, Mandy, Mindy and Rudy. "I think they miss the yard as much as we do."
Joan Bates, 57, and her husband, Jim, 51, said they had heard slight cracking in their home before. But on May 6, the ground beneath their 2,100-square-foot home opened, taking the front of the house and most of the garage with it.
Now, after 22 years of living at the house, the couple will move away.
"We just can't live there anymore. It just has to go," Joan Bates said.
"We have to pay for the demolition ourselves," she added. "It's going to cost a lot, but what can we do?"
Although tearing down the house is expensive, the cost is much cheaper than trying to reconstruct the home. The couple stayed in a hotel for a while before renting a home nearby.
Joan Bates said she was very thankful for the kindness neighbors showed her and her husband, an employee of the Pasco County School District, after the house was destroyed.
"Everyone has been wonderful," she said. "I could not ask for better neighbors."
The families on the Bates' block expressed the same sentiments.
"Our home was their home," said Gloria Levy, who has known the Bateses for years. "Everyone was very worried about them."
There have not been any major sinkholes reported in Hernando County since that incident, which ranks as one of the most-destructive sinkholes in county records.
But neighbors remain sceptical.
"We are having our house checked next week," said Natasha Williams. "I'm worried that we might be next."
Ryan Strong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (352) 544-1630.