Wrecking rains flood small business owners out and drive customers away. Our I-Team went looking for answers and a fix. Instead I-team reporter Jackie Callaway found finger pointing between Hillsborough County and the Florida Department of Transportation.
Devastating floods strike in the absence of any real storm.
One Stop Auto Sales owner Paul Sarmento says a strong shower drowned his inventory of 100 plus cars in 2015. He showed us dozens of pictures of cars full of water and a lot that resembled a lake.
The property owner built a berm around the 3 acre lot at Hannah Avenue and 56th Street after the first flood. The work proved no match for a missing drainage system. One year later disaster struck again. Sarmento’s entire business,170,000 in inventory was lost in an afternoon.
We set out to find out why and discovered emails between county officials dating back to 2011 discussing the drainage issues at this intersection. They mention two other business forced to move over chronic flooding. Paul Sarmento joined the exodus last year.
The loss costs tax payers as well. The county paid the car lot $100k after the first flood in 2015.
No one from public works would go on camera. A spokesperson sent an email instead stating:
“Public Works has recently worked to minimize flooding, including putting in swales and regrading to redirect water flow.”
The county wrapped up its work in early June. Sheila Wolf who works at a metal recycling business at the intersection says it flooded days later.
In a statement Hillsborough officials blame the state for not doing their part:
“A long-term solution would involve improving the storm water drainage along 56th street, which is under the jurisdiction of the Florida Department of Transportation."
We showed Kristen Carson with the DOT a county email that says the state disabled the drainage system at 56th street years ago and never reconnected it. Carson claims it was reconnected.
During our meeting the agency said it would now work with the county on a resolution. Until more is done history will no doubt repeat itself.