County's sinkhole repair loophole hurt homeowners

An I-Team investigation leads to change

When a sinkhole threatens to swallow a home, repairs can be costly, complicated and next to impossible to inspect from above ground.
 
That’s why building officials in almost every Tampa Bay area county require an engineer's report on each job.
 
Ron Fabre's sinkhole remediation involved pumping concrete into 29 points around his house, according to a one-page summary his contractor filed with Pasco County.
 
Clicks Construction filed the document with the Pasco Clerk of Court stating it stabilized Fabre’s home through the grouting and underpinning, a practice of driving metal support beams under the structure.
 
The homeowner’s insurance company paid more than $70,000 for the work. But more than a year later the I-Team revealed that Clicks Construction was faking completion reports and forging an engineer's stamp on sinkhole repair documents in Hernando County.
 
In the end both the president of the company and his wife were convicted of fraud and the company was shut down.
 
The I-Team eventually discovered other problems. In Pasco County we found closed-out sinkhole remediation permits in which summary reports didn’t have an engineer’s report.
 
Pasco County's Chief Building Official Tim Moore admits before he took over the permitting office, the county quit requiring sinkhole remediation companies to provide engineering reports on completed work. Why? Because the contractors complained of the cost and it was not part of county code.
 
We found that Pinellas, Hernando and Hillsborough counties require that summary or completion reports be signed and sealed by a Florida-licensed engineer.
 
It wasn't until the I-Team started asking questions that Tim Moore said he became aware of the loophole.
 
Now Pasco County is overhauling its permitting process. Beginning May 1 all summary reports involving sinkhole remediation must be signed and sealed by an engineer.
 
In August a new software system is scheduled to be installed that will make it easier for contractors and engineers to upload required paperwork.
 
The changes come too late for Ron Fabre but will provide more of check and balance system for other sinkhole homeowners going forward.
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