Sinkhole to get turnarounds and a fence

Pasco County has selected the solution it plans to pursue regarding the sinkhole that opened last year in Lake Padgett Estates in Land O’ Lakes.

The county plans to build two “hammerhead” turnarounds on each side of the sinkhole.

A six-foot decorative fence and an access gate also will be installed around the sinkhole on Ocean Pines Drive.

Kevin Guthrie, Pasco County’s assistant county administrator for public safety, has played a key role in addressing the sinkhole problem in Lake Padgett Estates in Land O’ Lakes. (File)

The estimated cost for the work is $242,000.

Construction is expected to begin within six months to eight months, following design work and purchase of right of way.

“We’ll move as quickly as possible,” said Margaret Smith, the county’s engineering services director.

The Pasco County Commission approved the turnarounds at its March 27 meeting in New Port Richey. Commissioners also agreed to get more information on the feasibility of linking the sinkhole to Lake Saxon, as a future project.

A geological survey deemed that connection to be risky, but Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore said the option needs more study.

“That’s our premier lakefront community in this area,” he said. “We want to make sure property values stay up.”

The turnarounds are considered an immediate safety solution for a roadway that was severed when a sinkhole opened up on July 14, 2017.

The depression swallowed two houses, a motorcycle and a boat. Seven houses in the area also have been condemned.

Currently, garbage trucks and emergency vehicles that drive down either end of Ocean Pines must back up to exit or back into private driveways to turn around.

“I saw a truck that had to be towed out because it was stuck in a ditch trying to go around another vehicle,” Moore said.

County officials held workshops with residents in recent months before they reached a decision.

Initially, five options were presented. However, the geological survey recommended against the Lake Saxon connection, and rebuilding Ocean Pines with supportive piles driven underground.

The lake connection would cost an estimated $2.5 million. Rebuilding Ocean Pines would be about $750,000.

Both were considered to have a risk of causing additional ground disturbances in the area of the sinkhole.

An option to only install fencing and a gate would cost about $65,000.

Commissioners decided unanimously to build the turnarounds now, but also agreed to discuss the lake connection with the Southwest Florida Water Management District. That’s the state agency that would issue a permit for the work.

Plans are to file a pre-application with the state agency, relying on data collected from the geological survey.

Pasco County attorney Jeffrey Steinsnyder voiced concerns that even if a permit were approved, there could still be risks to the neighborhood.

Moore said, “Let’s at least have more in-depth conversations with Swiftmud, and have them give a report.”

Published April 4, 2018

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