Deadline looms for contractor repairing sinkhole-damaged Villages homes

Article Courtesy of The Villages-News
By Larry B. Croom
Published March 15, 2020

  

More than two years after sinkholes ravaged the Village of Calumet Grove and left residents frazzled and exasperated, the contractor making repairs to two damaged homes is facing a hard deadline of April 20 to have the first phase of work completed.
   

According to Mike Savage, Marion County’s building and safety director, that includes stabilizing the two houses, located at 17092 and 17086 McLawren Terrace, through various procedures including grout injections and underpinnings on the concrete slabs. Savage said the injection grouting worked very well and both of the homes have been raised back up to acceptable levels.

Savage said the owner of the properties, Hayden Wrobel of I Buy Sick Homes, and his contractor have had ground penetrating radar performed on the lots and under the two structures. He said the report – which he requested several times and had to involve a county attorney before receiving it – didn’t show any new “ground disturbances” on the properties, just ones mostly along a since-abandoned stormwater pipe that ran between the homes where grout injections already had taken place.

“But it’s only a snapshot,” Savage warned. “If it’s hitting a lot of vegetative matter, if it’s hitting a lot of things that restrict that signal from getting down into the ground, it won’t see below it. That’s the unfortunate thing.”

The contractor repairing two sinkhole-damaged homes in the Village of Calumet Grove is facing an April 20 deadline to have phase one of the repairs completed.


 

Savage added that’s he’s hoping to meet with the contractor’s engineer at the site of the two homes on Friday and get him to sign off on the ground penetrating radar reports. Once that happens, he said, the contractor can move to phase two, which would involve a standard construction permit giving him 180 days to make repairs inside the homes and get his first inspection on the structures completed.

 

Savage said those repairs in the house at 17086 McLawren Terrace mostly have been completed and he doesn’t think a phase two permit will be needed. But it’s a much different story at the other home, he said.
“We’ve got busted slabs,” he said. “We’ve got the bay window on the righthand side of the property, that when they injection grouted, it actually bumped out the bottom of that bay window. All of that will require remediation.”

Savage vowed to hold the contractor to the deadline and said he would make that quite clear on Friday.

“Nobody wants this cleaned up faster than I do, I guarantee you that,” he said. “And that’s why it’s a hard date of April 20.”

District 3 Commissioner Jeff Gold, who represents The Villages portion of Marion County, said he also wants to see the project completed as quickly as possible.

“I want this over with,” he said. “I know the residents there are very upset. I agree with them because it is an eyesore in that area.”


Commission Chairman Kathy Bryant agreed.

“I think enough time has passed,” she said. “Their work should be done by now.”

Don Deakin, who serves as a Community Development District 4 supervisor and represents the sinkhole-ravaged neighborhood, told commissioners that several residents have reported seeing new openings in the ground on the properties. He said they were concerned for safety reasons and wanted to know what could be done about the issue.

But he was told that Marion County only has jurisdiction over the structures, not the property where they are located. Bryant also said he should caution residents again going onto the private properties, as they could be charged with trespassing.

The sinkholes along McLawren Terrace first opened up in the wee hours of the morning on Feb. 15, 2018. Those who lived in the neighborhood reported hearing a loud bang shortly after 3 a.m. and soon started calling 911 for help. Within minutes, emergency crews arrived on scene to find the devastation the highly dangerous sinkholes had created.

One of the homeowners, Doris Morrill, had to be rescued from her residence. The residents of the other damaged home, Frank and Jan Neumann, were able to escape unscathed, though one sinkhole at least 35 feet deep opened up just outside their lanai door.

In May, two other sinkholes opened up in the yards and another one re-opened underneath the lake on the golf course behind the homes.

In July, Morrill’s home, which was owned by a trust set up by her late husband, was deemed by engineering firms to be unstable and dangerous at best. Frazzled Calumet Grove residents expressed frustrations over their property values. And Frank Neumann, who had been instructed by his attorney to avoid talking about specifics regarding his damaged house, said the entire situation had been very “disruptive” for him and his wife.

Insurance settlements on both homes eventually were reached and the homes were sold, with Wrobel ending up with the properties. The damaged stormwater pipe was rerouted into a different section of the neighborhood. And Calumet Grove residents have remained active in their demands to see their neighborhood return to a sense of normalcy.

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