Remedying a massive sinkhole in Land O’ Lakes has taken a minor step forward, four months after it opened and swallowed two homes on Ocean Pines Drive in Lake Padgett.
Residents of the Lake Padgett community were presented several preliminary solutions for fixing the sinkhole long-term, during a Nov. 8 meeting at the Land O’ Lakes Community Center.
The audience also had the opportunity to ask questions and offer input to county officials.
Kevin Guthrie, assistant county administrative of public safety, led the meeting.
He offered up three possible solutions for “success” in the sinkhole’s remediation:
- Build a fence around the sinkhole with a cul de sac on each side (estimated cost of $1.7 million)
- Connect the sinkhole to Lake Saxon while adding a cul de sac to each side of the lake (estimated cost of $2.5 million)
- Rebuild the original road through the sinkhole (estimated cost of $800,000)
The first two options would require the county to purchase several properties, either to connect the sinkhole to Lake Saxon and/or develop a cul de sac.
The third option, meanwhile, requires the reconstruction of Ocean Pines Drive using a sheet piling methodology. Fences then would be placed around bodies of water on either side of the road — similar to how retention ponds have fences around them.
A fourth option consists of leaving the sinkhole “as is,” adding a chain-link fence and signage around its perimeter. The option would cost about $50,000.
The Pasco County Commission will have the final say on how to proceed with long-term recovery efforts at the sinkhole site.
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.
On July 31, the county approved $1.3 million for an initial cleanup of debris, and stabilization of the site. That work has been completed.
Guthrie said additional geotechnical investigation is required before any remediation can be done, which would cost an additional $100,000 to $200,000.
The University of South Florida also is recommending a resistivity survey be completed to determine how the sinkhole interacts with underground surrounding areas. The cost would be another $15,000.
Dr. Lori Collins is a research professor at USF, and is a part of the team of geologists and postgraduate students researching the sinkhole since Day 1.
She explained further testing is needed to truly understand how the sinkhole penetrates the Florida aquifer and connects to the lake system.
“We want to make sure science tells us what the alternates should be first. Right now, we don’t know…what’s going on underneath the ground,” Collins said.
The necessary prep work could take another 45 days, Guthrie said, before a final recommendation is presented to county commissioners.
“We want to do it right the first time and not keep coming back, time and time again,” Guthrie said.
Since the sinkhole involves private property and a county road, the county is a stakeholder in the situation. Had the sinkhole never touched the roadway, it would’ve strictly been a private property issue, Guthrie said.
Regarding funding, Guthrie mentioned municipal service taxing units (MSTU) or municipal services benefit unit (MSBU) as options that have been used in the past.
Utilizing the county’s general fund reserves is another possibility. However, the county is already “significantly dipping” into those reserves following Hurricane Irma, Guthrie said.
Assistance through grants and the state also will be vetted, he said.
“We’re trying to get whatever we can,” Guthrie said. “It’s going to be very difficult…to help pay for this.”
Terence Doohen was one of several sinkhole victims who attended the Nov. 8 meeting.
He said the public forum proved beneficial to affected homeowners and community members.
“I felt there was some good information there that had not been communicated to me,” he said, “so I thought it was well worth my time and some other people’s time.”
The 44-year-old, along with his wife and 10-year-old son, in August had their lakeside property red-tagged by the Pasco County Building Inspectors Office.
Doohen said he’s in favor of “whatever is the safest solution for everyone involved.”
“I would go to bat for long-term, whichever is the safest option,” he said.
Doohen also supports the county taking a thorough look at the sinkhole matter before making any major decisions.
“I’m fine with the time that’s gone by,” he said “I think it’s fine, if everybody’s dotting all the ‘i’s and crossing all the t’s, and if it moves at a little bit slower pace than one expected; I think you’ve just got to kind of live with it and roll with it.”
Several additional community meetings are expected over the next several months.
Guthrie acknowledged the sinkhole matter will be handled in a methodical fashion, likely extending well into 2018.
“We are at step one on a ladder that’s probably about 10 stories long,” Guthrie said.
Published November 15, 2017