Ex-Hernando County administrator’s sinkhole not yet fixed
Jan 6, 2012
The following article was published in Hernando Today on January 6, 2012:
Ex-administrator’s sinkhole not yet fixed
By Michael D. Bates
Former County Administrator David Hamilton, who filed for tax relief last summer because of suspected sinkhole activity, has not yet begun any repairs on his property.
The county building department shows no permit has been pulled to begin sinkhole repairs at 10331 Audie Brook Drive, in the Seven Hills area of Spring Hill.
When asked to comment Wednesday on the status of his sinkhole, Hamilton preferred to say only this: “We’ve got an adjustor and we’re continuing to work on the claim.”
County Building Official Frank Baxter said the proper way to initiate sinkhole repairs on a property is to go through the county and obtain a permit. Some people, he said, choose to skirt the county protocol and start repairs.
Baxter said he has no idea whether Hamilton has started any repairs and wouldn’t initiate an investigation until someone files a complaint with his office.
“We don’t know if there’s been any work done out there that would even require a permit,” Baxter said.
Kevin Johnston, valuation services supervisor with the Hernando County Property Appraiser’s Office, said there is nothing requiring Hamilton or others who file a sinkhole claim to fix their homes.
Johnston said in many cases, property owners realize they are ahead by not moving forward, especially if the cost of repairs exceeds the market value of the home.
And people in Hernando County are realizing that, he said.
The Hernando County Property Appraiser’s Office closed out 2011 with 1,655 reports of sinkhole activity, Johnston said. That compares with 877 during 2010 and 402 in 2009.
Not repairing such homes tends to devalue other houses in the immediate area, which further compounds the problem, he said.
Around September, Hamilton filed paperwork with the property appraiser’s office seeking tax relief on his Spring Hill home because of a possible sinkhole on his property.
That reduced the market value of his home 50 percent, from $141,501 to $70,751.
At Hamilton’s request, Lakeland-based BCI Engineers & Scientists Inc. investigated the home and found minor cracking.
After a series of tests, including a ground-penetrating survey and borings, BCI determined that sinkhole activity “may be contributing to the differential settlement of the foundation and affecting the structure to some extent.”
“It is BCI’s professional opinion that the distress to the Hamilton property is the result of a combination of factors, including sinkhole activity,” the report stated.
The report went on to say the minor cracking is primarily attributed to “normal aging and performance of the building components.”
The engineering report, filed in the county clerk’s office, recommends that remedial measures include grouting to shore up the foundation.
Hamilton said at the time he filed a claim with state-run Citizens Property Insurance about a year ago after he and his wife heard a loud cracking sound somewhere in the house.
Citizens paid for the engineering report.
Hamilton said in September he sought tax relief through the property appraiser’s office “just like any citizen would do.”