Sinkhole eats local business

Jul 24, 2011

The following article was published in the Daily Commerical on July 24, 2011:

Sinkhole eats local business

By Millard K. Ives

The roof of a Leesburg business building has collapsed, weeks after a sinkhole gulped part of it.

As the roof of the Main Street Hair and Beauty Supply of Saaraa Corner Store crumpled, more debris, including a Dumpster, trees, boxes and beauty products, was pushed into the sinkhole.

However, city officials are adamant that the sinkhole is not growing, and attribute the collapse instead to the building’s wooden trusses that gave way.

“There’s no indication that it’s growing,” said Robert Sargent, a spokesman for the city of Leesburg, adding that soil around the edges of the hole also has fallen in.

The discovery of the sinkhole came on the early morning of June 27, when Rafeek Mohamid, owner of the property, received a call from his alarm company that something was wrong.

Arriving at the property, he was just in time to see his business falling into the ground along Crosby Street, which is behind the structure.

Although most of the damage is on Mohamid’s property, the sinkhole has swallowed some of the dirt under the width of Crosby Street, on which the city has placed a gate, yellow caution tape and barriers to keep out traffic.

“We’re monitoring it,” Sargent said, explaining that a water main had broken but that none of the area residents were affected.

In the meantime, Sargent said the city is in talks with Mohamid to repair the area.

Sargent said the city would like to see Mohamid fix his area first, which would make it easier for the city to repair the damage for which it is responsible. Sargent added Mohamid has said he would likely renovate the area, but there has been no definite answer.

The stock in the beauty salon is worth about $690,000 and another $250,000 in wholesale groceries. Mohamid could not be reached for comment, but said in an earlier interview that insurance will pay for some of his loss.

“It’s a tough loss,” Mohamid said recently as he looked at city crews working on the 60- to 70-foot-wide sinkhole that toppled at least a quarter of his business.

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