Sinkhole-tattered neighborhood happy to see activity on damaged roadway

Article Courtesy of The Villages News
By  Larry D. Croom
Published April 25, 2019


Crews from Andreyev Engineering were busy taking soil samples Monday from the sinkhole-damaged portion of McLawren Terrace in the Village of Calumet Grove. The engineering firm is taking the borings to make sure the soil is stable and will be compatible with the design of a possible rerouted stormwater system that could be put into place with the approval of Community Development District 4 supervisors. That rerouted system would steer stormwater away from a pipe and two properties that were severely damaged by sinkholes last February and May.

The portion of McLawren Terrace in front of the damaged homes has been closed because it was deemed unsafe to repair the roadway or the stormwater pipe until the two properties were stabilized. Those homes have since been sold to Asset Trust Holding LLC, a company that also advertises under the name I Buy Sick Homes.

Work finally started on stabilizing the slabs of the dilapidated homes recently and frazzled residents have made it quite clear that they’re tired of waiting for things to return to normal in their tattered neighborhood.

At a Community Development District 4 question-and-answer session earlier this month, District Manager Richard Baier told residents that CDD 4 officials aren’t comfortable attempting to repair the pipe between the damaged homes. He cited liability issues and the potential for legal action against CDD 4 if something were to happen to those structures while the pipe was being repaired. And he said neither he nor the elected CDD 4 supervisors were willing to take that risk.

At the Q&A session, Baier showed the residents a plan to reroute the stormwater from the damaged intersection of McAlpin Street and McLawren Terrace, down Locustwood Court and back out onto Calumet Avenue, with the new outfall pipe coming out at the pond near the Calumet Grove Postal Station. CDD 4’s supervisors will still have to approve the new plan for it to move forward. And Baier said while there’s no cost estimate yet on rerouting the pipeline, though he’s hopeful that the $1.1 million already set aside by CDD 4 will cover it.

Crews from Andreyev Engineering were taking soil samples Monday from the sinkhole-damaged portion of McLawren Terrace in the Village of Calumet Grove. The borings are needed to make sure the soil is stable and will be compatible with the design of a possible rerouted stormwater pipeline.

Baier added that parts of the old pipe will be removed and other pieces will stay in place underground. And he added that the sequence of events will be stabilizing and reopening the damaged portion of McLawren Terrace, installing the new pipe and then finishing off the entire job.

Barbara Gaines, who has served as a spokesperson for the 111 property owners in the neighborhood, has twice addressed the Marion County Commission and asked them to refrain from giving Asset Trust Holding LLC any further extensions for repairing the two damaged homes. The group was initially shut down after Gaines spoke two minutes at meeting on April 2. But last week, the commission gave her extra time to speak and Commissioner Carl Zalak III took aim at CDD 4 and started questioning why McLawren Terrace hadn’t been repaired sooner – even though it’s been made clear over the past 15 months that crews couldn’t touch the infrastructure until the two home sites were stabilized.

Zalak’s criticism didn’t sit well with Mary Ann Mowers, who lives across the street from one of the damaged homes. She told Zalak during the public comment period of the meeting that she didn’t appreciate his negative comments toward CDD 4, which in addition to putting money aside for repairs has raised assessment fees by 20 percent to help pay for the repairs. She said that both Baier and CDD 4 Supervisor Don Deakin have been quite responsive to those affected by the tragedy from Day One.

On Monday, Gaines sad the residents who have been dealing with the sinkhole nightmare are happy to see some kind of action finally taking place on McLawren Terrace.
“We know that people have been examining the area to prepare bids,” she said. “I hope that means forward action. It feels like our activism has brought about some positive change.”

Another resident, Dr. Peggy Hoffman-Schmidt, agreed.

“We are delighted to know that finally, after 15 months, something is happening to open our road again,” she said.