Restoring the site of a sinkhole within the Lake Padgett Estates subdivision to “pristine” condition would cost as much as $12 million. That idea was a non-starter for the Pasco County commissioners who reviewed a list of options on what to do next.
They also rejected a suggestion for a $4 million bridge to span the sinkhole, and keep traffic flowing along Ocean Pines Drive.
The sinkhole opened on July 14 at 21825 Ocean Pines Drive, and swallowed two homes, a motorcycle and a boat. Five more houses on both sides of Ocean Pines have been condemned.
The county approved $1.3 million for an initial cleanup of debris, and stabilization of the site. That work has been completed.
County commissioners reviewed future options at a workshop on Oct. 17 in Dade City.
The least expensive choice was to “do nothing” and install decorative fencing, with warning signs, around the sinkhole for about $50,000.
But, options in between $12 million and $50,000 are on the table.
Pasco County officials plan to meet with residents of Lake Padgett for their input before making a final recommendation to county commissioners.
One option is to connect the sinkhole to Lake Saxon, which is about 90 feet away. That would cost about $800,000.
“Any connection to the lake would not go over well with the community,” said Pasco County Commission Chairman Mike Moore, who has heard from some residents in Lake Padgett regarding concerns about potential contamination from the sinkhole.
The University of South Florida is recommending that a survey be completed to determine how the sinkhole interacts with underground surrounding areas. The cost would be about $15,000. Before that, county officials say an additional geological survey should be done at a cost of about $100,000.
Ceres Environmental Services has completed its work to remove and dispose of floating debris from the sinkhole, pump and remove contaminated water, and stabilize the southeast portion of the sinkhole with granular fill.
Kevin Guthrie, assistant county administrator for public safety, said linking the sinkhole to the lake could be a “low-cost, long-term, permanent solution.”
The sinkhole, which went as deep as 50 feet, is now 10 feet deep, said Guthrie. And, he said, “The water quality in the sinkhole is better than in the lake.”
Major portions of the two houses, the motorcycle and the boat remain in the sinkhole, but that’s not unusual in such instances, Guthrie said.
“We have cars in sinkholes in just about every sinkhole in Pasco County,” he said.
The lake connection is an idea worth exploring, said Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey.
“To me, when I was out walking, it made great sense to connect it to the lake,” she said.
Historically, Pasco County officials say the lake’s shoreline at one time extended beyond the sinkhole and included lots where homes now exist.
Along with the lake connection, cul-de-sacs on Ocean Pines also could be built on either side of the sinkhole. That would cost about $1.7 million, bringing the total cost to about $2.5 million.
Pasco County Commissioner Ron Oakley suggested that if cul-de-sacs are built, different names would be needed for the disconnected segments of Ocean Pines.
“It doesn’t need to be confusing for emergency (responders),” Oakley said.
Another choice would be to reconnect Ocean Pines at the sinkhole and build up the road with sheet piles on either side. That would work as a dam to contain the sinkhole. The cost would be about $800,000.
Whatever the final decision, there are financial implications for the county and residents.
Pasco County officials have said they want to get reimbursement for as much of its costs as possible. They view sinkhole damage largely as a private matter between insurance companies and the injured parties.
To that end, the county mailed demand letters and notice of financial responsibility to homeowners, renters and companies that have done remediation work in the past.
Left open is how much liability could rest with Lake Padgett residents. Moore said residents are concerned about taking on maintenance costs of the sinkhole.
The subdivision has a special taxing district, created by Florida statute.
However, those funds are collected solely for the operation and maintenance of recreational facilities in the subdivision, including five lake parks, three boat ramps and a horse stable.
For fiscal year 2018, the per unit fee collected by the taxing district is about $500, according to documents on Lake Padgett’s website.
In describing the taxing district, website documents specifically state that it doesn’t serve or have authority to serve as a Community Development District, civic association or a homeowner association.
Published October 25, 2017