Marion County’s chief building official reports status of sinkhole-damaged Villages homes

It’s been almost two years since sinkholes severely damaged two homes in the Village of Calumet Grove, but Marion County’s top building official says the efforts to repair those homes is moving forward – and being monitored closely.

Mike Savage, director of building and safety, made a presentation to Marion County commissioners on Tuesday morning that showed the progression of work on the homes, which were damaged by sinkholes in February and May of 2018. He showed commissioners several photos that included gauges on cracks on both homes designed to show movement in the structures.

The sinkhole damaged house at 17092 McLawren Terrace.

Savage said the owner of the damaged homes, Asset Trust Holdings LLC – I Buy Sick Houses – has started the injection process to stabilize the dwellings and the ground beneath them. He said gauges on the homes have shown no movement in the past year.

Savage added that a gauge on the most severely damaged home, which is located at 17092 McLawren Terrace, and was formerly occupied by Doris Morrill, showed a significant change since the stabilization work started.

“It’s actually closing up,” he said. “This injection process now has corrected that gauge by about 4 millimeters.”

The sinkhole damaged home at 17086 McLawren Terrace.

At the second property, located at 17086 McLawren Terrace and formerly owned by Frank and Jan Neumann, Savage said the injection grouting has been completed.

“We are waiting on an engineer of record sign-off,” he said.

Savage assured commissioners that he is going above and beyond in the process to make sure the homes are properly stabilized by requiring ground-penetrating radar, core borings or other approved methods of technology to assure success. He cited concerns expressed by Villagers at two different commission meetings earlier this year where they talked about their fears of anomalies under the ground at both of the damaged properties.

Large cracks remain in the garage walls on the house at 17092 McLawren Terrace.

Savage said he’s also reached out to Asset Trust Holdings, the engineer of record and the contractor to request an onsite meeting. He said he’s invited District Manager Richard Baier to attend so they can receive another update on the ongoing repairs to the damaged properties.

“We’re moving pretty good with the Neumann property,” he said. “The Morrill property has been sitting a little bit.”

Savage said in large part because of concerns that have been expressed by Villages residents, he assigned one of his inspectors to do a “roving drive-by” at the two homes whenever he’s handling assignments in The Villages portion of the county.

“So, if he’s there every day for five days, go by there every day and just do a once-over,” he said.

Underpinnings were placed along the slab to stabilize the sinkhole-ravaged McLawren Terrace home that used to be owned by Frank and Jan Neumann.

Savage said the inspector told him the former Neumann house had been raised a total of three inches.

“They’re doing it slow, because as you can imagine, you don’t want to raise a house that quick when you’re trying to do an injection grouting program,” he said. “If you raise house by three inches in one day, there’s going to be structural issues inside the house.”

Savage said he is waiting for a report with a sign-off from the engineer of record that shows the underground grouting was a success.

“It doesn’t do us any good, from a building and safety standpoint, to put somebody back in a house to find out in another five years we have another issue,” he said. “We can’t guarantee it, but we can take steps to try to remediate it as much as possible.”

McLawren Terrace was still blocked and two severely damaged homes remained in the Village of Calumet Grove almost 16 months after sinkholes first ravaged the neighborhood.

As for the next step, Savage said it will be all about making the two homes livable again.

“The plumbing works, the electrical works – everything is safe inside those houses,” he said.

Community Development District 4 Supervisor Don Deakin thanked both Vice Chairman Jeff Gold, who represents the Marion County portion of The Villages, and Savage for attending recent meetings in the community to explain the process in moving forward in the Calumet Grove neighborhood. He said he’s been quite impressed with their presentations and their tolerance of Villagers who are fed up and want to see the sinkhole nightmare put behind them.

They are obviously very upset because they are in the 21st month of this neighborhood issue,” he said. “It’s been very traumatic for them and it has affected home values.”