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City assists sinkhole victim

City officials on Thursday waived normal policy and gave spending money to a woman forced to seek shelter when a city water main broke along Himes Avenue Jan. 6 and flooded her South Tampa home.

Another woman and her 2-year-old daughter are still waiting for a check from the city.

Tampa's chief of staff Darrell Smith said the city wrote a check Thursday to Danielle Dubin for $643.15. The money includes reimbursement for hotel bills Dubin incurred last weekend and $28 a day for meals for the next week.

Since Monday, Dubin's hotel bills have been charged directly to the city, he said.

Smith said he's still waiting for receipts from Tina Tyler. Tyler and her daughter are staying with her parents until they can return home. Smith said Tyler must also sign a release stating that reimbursing her for expenses is not an admission that the pipe failure was the city's fault.

Tyler's attorney, Joe Registrato, said he would advise his client to sign the release as long as it doesn't waive her right to get her house repaired. He said he wants the city to advance Tyler $6,000 to cover her living expenses and basic needs until she moves back home.

"What we're after right now is groceries, clothes," he said. "I'm looking to get her on her feet."

The city typically collects receipts and reimburses people for expenses incurred during these situations, but officials said they wanted to be sensitive to residents' needs. The women said they could not afford to pay for their expenses in advance.

Last week's break in the water pipe caused a sinkhole that spanned the width of Himes Avenue, swallowed a city water department truck and sent sandy, muddy water into Tyler's and Dubin's homes.

Smith said the city has begun work to dry out and clean up the houses, but it could be two to four weeks before Dubin and Tyler can move back.