Nervous Villagers have plenty of questions about sinkholes in Calumet Grove

Nearly 200 Villagers crowded into a Mulberry Grove Recreation Center on Monday night for a question-and-answer session regarding sinkholes. So many people showed up that all of the chairs were used. Some people stood for much of the two and a half hour session.

Community Development District 4 Supervisor Don Deakin had set up the meeting as he has done several times over the past six months. He normally has around 40 Villagers show up for these informal Q&A sessions.

Steve DeLucchi, president of the Calumet Grove Neighbors Association had put up a sign regarding the meeting at the entrance to McLawren Terrace, the street where a number of sinkholes have opened up.

A standing-room-only crowd filled the large room at the Mulberry Recreation Center.

Patricia Kelly, a 14-year resident of the Village of Calumet Grove and a close neighbor to the damaged homes, wanted information on what has happened in her neighborhood.

Supervisor Deakin began the meeting with a brief history of sinkholes in The Villages. He then told the audience that a number of jurisdictions and organizations are dealing with the Calumet Grove situation, including the individual property owners and their insurance companies, Marion County, the Developer and CDD 4. He went on to explain that both the county and Developer as well as homeowners insurance companies had used ground-penetrating radar or sonar devices to study the areas affected by the sinkholes. The final reports have not yet been received by CDD 4, he said. He invited the audience to the regular CDD 4 meeting at 1:30 p.m. Friday at Savannah Center. He then opened the floor to questions.

CDD 4 Supervisor Don Deakin, right, fields a question from Village of Calumet Grove resident Steve Page.

Several questions were asked about insurance including, one from Steve Page, a property owner near the damaged homes. His question had to do with catastrophic damage vs sinkhole damage.

Deakin recommended that the Villagers talk with their insurance companies as policies were not uniform.

When Deakin did not have an answer to a question he would direct the Villager to some resource which may have an answer.

Many questioners noted that the sinkholes seemed to be in a line from the street drain, between the houses and into the pond. One man asked why the replacement pipes, which are steel appeared to be a much larger diameter than the rusted pipes that were being replaced. Loraine Daniels, who lives near the damaged homes, wanted to know why some areas of The Villages had concrete pipes while their village had steel pipes.

Another homeowner, Sue Waters, asked, “If the drainage pipes failed which caused the sinkholes to open and damage the homes would District 4 be responsible for repairs to those homes.”

Deakin acknowledged that that was a good question and went on to say “the District may well be on the hook for the repairs if it can be conclusively proved that the sinkhole was caused by the failure of the drain pipe”.  He went on to describe a program of drain inspections which the district began last year. No drain pipe failures have yet been observed during those inspections.

Deakin said he expects the District staff will have a report at Friday’s CDD 4 meeting which may answer more of the Villagers questions. He also pointed out that Villagers are allowed three minutes per individual to address the supervisors and he urged the audience to attend Friday’s meeting.

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